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Why won't they listen? Get heard with mindfulness | The Family Alchemists

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As a coach, I often have parents come and tell me how guilty they feel for yelling at their kids when they won’t listen.
But the cause of their frustration often boils down to the simple complaint:
“My kids just won’t listen.”
Often, shouting and yelling comes as a knee-jerk reaction to feeling unheard. Our subconscious mind suggests that maybe if we just spoke a little louder our children would listen and do what we tell them to do.

But it never works.

Shouting only creates more lack of actual listening, as our children hear only noise in each yelling match or they shut down with every order shouted in their direction.
As mindfulness becomes more popular and understood, we have to wonder if there’s a more conscious way of approaching an un-co-operative child. How do you mindfully get a child to listen?

Mindfulness asks us to be present within the moment, consciously with our children and seeing things from a whole view. Asking ourselves why our children don’t listen is a good place to start.
Are they focused on their own thoughts, their game or whatever they are doing? Are they tired, hungry or even possibly upset about something, lost in some replay of the day’s events, so they literally aren’t “tuned in” to what you are telling them?

Mindfulness also often asks us to reflect on ourselves, or rather see if life is reflecting from ourselves. In other words, are we, in fact, listening to our children? Are we asking them to do something we aren’t being an example of.

Taking this approach can build up a lot of resistance within parents.
We are the parents, and we’ve been told that our children HAVE to listen to us. When we were children we were told we had to listen to our elders, why should it be any different for our children?
But if we are looking for a more positive, supportive experience with our children, we have to ask if we ever felt unheard, if we felt like we couldn’t express our thoughts or feelings in the dictatorship of our childhood and if, in the long run, we actually did listen after all. Didn’t we often only jump into action when we felt we were going to get into trouble, leaving fear as our only motivation?

Mindful parents have to ask themselves, do we want our children to feel heard and understood as we want to feel ourselves or do we want them doing what we ask out of fear and simply because we’ve said so?
Children are watching and learning constantly and, in a world of technology and fast speed interactions, they are navigating different waters than most of us were at their age. But with their more advanced knowledge has also come advanced insight. Children know when we are simply saying things to distract or throw them off of something.
What that suggests is that if we’re saying no about something… it’s only fair to have a reason to back it up. Simply saying “no” with the reasoning that it’s our right to as a parent, leads to rebellion from our children who sense we aren’t fully sure of something ourselves. At the same time, saying no without foundations of reason, throws the mindful parent into confusion as we scramble for reasons which are built upon nothing.

Therefore, to mindfully get our children to listen:
1) Listen. When we ask our children questions and truly hear their answers, when we stop our distractions to truly hear them, we create the space for a real exchange and conversation.
2) Practice integrity. When we make sure our requests and words are honest and with reason, we can explain our purpose and why we need them to hear us. We can also create the opportunity for both learning and connection with our kids.
3) Look at ourselves. Are we acting how we want our children to act? Children look to example and we can’t ask anyone to do something we aren’t willing to do ourselves.

Mindful parenting is the art of presence and practice. The space of listening and recognizing our children as people, who are growing and learning just as we all are.

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