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8 Things You Should Try To Avoid Doing To Your Children That You Think Are Acts of Love

8 Things You Should Try To Avoid Doing To Your Children That You Think Are Acts of Love

Parenting, in many ways, is the hardest activity to master. Ever.

There are many reasons why parenting is so tricky to get comfortable with. One of the biggest reasons is that no parenting book could possibly cover all of the different personalities that our children come to this world ready to express. So even when we figure out one technique that might work, our child soon changes and grows and needs something different from us.

Another reason is that parenting involves an enormous amount of energy.

Although some days with children may pass like a cool breeze, others feel like they may never end. Of course when you factor in home and job stress, and the fact that many parents come from dysfunctional families, then it’s easy to see how the choices we make as parents may not end up being in the best interests of our children.

Our intentions may be loving, but sometimes our actions fall short.

We can all benefit from practical suggestions for reducing stress, anxiety, and conflict in our homes and within our families. When we parent in a calm home environment, we will be more likely to make decisions that are better for both our children and ourselves.

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1. Do not make your children feel responsible for your feelings.

Although making our children feel guilty is one of the oldest parenting tricks in the book, it is not a good idea to make our children feel responsible for how we are feeling. We may feel it’s harmless to say to a child, “If you do this for me, I won’t be sad anymore,” but doing so does not reflect the reality that we ourselves are responsible for feeling sad or happy, not our children.

Guilting our children into acting the way we want them to teaches them they must be on the lookout for how to take care of other people’s feelings — and this may be too heavy a burden to bear as they go on to develop relationships with others.

2. Do not make them feel responsible for your actions.

Just as we should avoid making children feel responsible for our feelings, we should avoid making them feel responsible for our actions. We are adults, after all. When we demonstrate to our children that we have calm in our hearts and are in control of how we speak and behave, children feel safe and develop a feeling of calm within their own hearts.

When we lose control and then say “You made me scream at you,” then our children are forced to imagine themselves as more powerful than they really are. Instead of feeling calm in their hearts, they end up feeling saddled with guilt.

When you feel you have reached your limit, take a few minutes to regain your composure, and then decide how you’d like to explore the issues at hand together with your child.

3. Try to avoid yelling or using physical touch to get your point across or to get your child’s attention.

It is important to help keep your child’s environment as safe and calm as possible. When we speak to our children with a moderate tone and volume, our children are able to listen at their best. When we scream at them, our children can only listen through their own feelings of anxiety, which does not set them up well to absorb information.

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When we use our speech rather than our touch to communicate with our children, we allow them to feel safe physically and respected. This also, by the way, helps children learn how to negotiate and to cooperate with their siblings without yelling or touching each other, which does wonders for creating calm at home.

4. Don’t ignore signs that your child may be procrastinating.

If you sense your child is reluctant to get work done or is hesitating to make a choice or a change, use that sense to help your child figure out what is getting in the way. This may be difficult for you as a parent if you tend to procrastinate yourself, but helping your child find a path through difficult experiences will help him or her to avoid the stress of procrastinating.

5. Don’t try to micromanage your child’s life.

Parents use their most loving instincts when they help their children through life’s hurdles. We often try to spare them feelings of disappointment. We also try to ensure they have the best chances for personal success and fulfillment.

These efforts to protect our children from untoward circumstances may have costs themselves, however. When children are over-protected and micromanaged they may:

1. Not have faith in the decisions they make for themselves.

2. Expect success for themselves unreasonably.

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3. Become somewhat passive in their actions as they may expect that others will help them to manage their own lives.

Step back as a parent and assist rather than direct. Enjoy the results.

6. Don’t try to purchase your children’s love.

We all can enjoy good food, fun experiences, and new goodies, but we should try to avoid “feeding” our children these things as expressions of our love for them. When we do, our children learn that they are loved for who they are, they don’t need stuff to fill them up with a false feeling of love, and they will find love in themselves and in other people, where it is in great supply.

7. Don’t make yourself miserable in order to keep your children satisfied.

When parents come from dysfunctional families, they may feel powerfully driven to avoid having their own children experience the negative feelings they did when they were young. This is a natural and loving impulse.

What can be problematic is when parents “protect” their children by refusing to allow certain feelings and experiences into the home, for example, anger, conflict, or imperfection. If you find yourself rigidly trying to protect your vision of what your family should look like and you believe your family members might be upset over your plans, consider seeking professional guidance or counseling in order to relieve the stress that might remain from your own childhood.

You’ll be able to parent with much greater clarity and ease once you do.

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8. Don’t forget to take care of yourself.

All parents will, at some point, to choose their child’s best interest over their own. However, if this becomes routine, where the parent becomes overly self-sacrificing, stress will likely ensue in the home.

The parent will become stressed, frazzled, and resentful, and that will not be good for anyone in the family system. Show your children that they are important, but also remember to show them that you are important too. Important enough to have good boundaries, good self-care, and good judgment.

Have compassion for yourself as a parent and lend that self-compassion to your children when you are with them. Aim toward calm in the family environment, while understanding that there will be periods where calm may not be possible. Save your touch for warm embraces, congratulatory hugs, and genuine affection.

The intention you put into your parenting will enrich your experience tremendously.

Featured photo credit: Arguing Parents with Upset Little Girl via canva.com

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Last Updated on October 21, 2020

8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

How would you feel if you were sharing a personal story and noticed that the person to whom you were speaking wasn’t really listening? You probably wouldn’t be too thrilled.

Unfortunately, that is the case for many people. Most individuals are not good listeners. They are good pretenders. The thing is, true listening requires work—more work than people are willing to invest. Quality conversation is about “give and take.” Most people, however, want to just give—their words, that is. Being on the receiving end as the listener may seem boring, but it’s essential.

When you are attending to someone and paying attention to what they’re saying, it’s a sign of caring and respect. The hitch is that attending requires an act of will, which sometimes goes against what our minds naturally do—roaming around aimlessly and thinking about whatnot, instead of listening—the greatest act of thoughtfulness.

Without active listening, people often feel unheard and unacknowledged. That’s why it’s important for everyone to learn how to be a better listener.

What Makes People Poor Listeners?

Good listening skills can be learned, but first, let’s take a look at some of the things that you might be doing that makes you a poor listener.

1. You Want to Talk to Yourself

Well, who doesn’t? We all have something to say, right? But when you are looking at someone pretending to be listening while, all along, they’re mentally planning all the amazing things they’re going to say, it is a disservice to the speaker.

Yes, maybe what the other person is saying is not the most exciting thing in the world. Still, they deserve to be heard. You always have the ability to steer the conversation in another direction by asking questions.

It’s okay to want to talk. It’s normal, even. Keep in mind, however, that when your turn does come around, you’ll want someone to listen to you.

2. You Disagree With What Is Being Said

This is another thing that makes you an inadequate listener—hearing something with which you disagree with and immediately tuning out. Then, you lie in wait so you can tell the speaker how wrong they are. You’re eager to make your point and prove the speaker wrong. You think that once you speak your “truth,” others will know how mistaken the speaker is, thank you for setting them straight, and encourage you to elaborate on what you have to say. Dream on.

Disagreeing with your speaker, however frustrating that might be, is no reason to tune them out and ready yourself to spew your staggering rebuttal. By listening, you might actually glean an interesting nugget of information that you were previously unaware of.

3. You Are Doing Five Other Things While You’re “Listening”

It is impossible to listen to someone while you’re texting, reading, playing Sudoku, etc. But people do it all the time—I know I have.

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I’ve actually tried to balance my checkbook while pretending to listen to the person on the other line. It didn’t work. I had to keep asking, “what did you say?” I can only admit this now because I rarely do it anymore. With work, I’ve succeeded in becoming a better listener. It takes a great deal of concentration, but it’s certainly worth it.

If you’re truly going to listen, then you must: listen! M. Scott Peck, M.D., in his book The Road Less Travel, says, “you cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time.” If you are too busy to actually listen, let the speaker know, and arrange for another time to talk. It’s simple as that!

4. You Appoint Yourself as Judge

While you’re “listening,” you decide that the speaker doesn’t know what they’re talking about. As the “expert,” you know more. So, what’s the point of even listening?

To you, the only sound you hear once you decide they’re wrong is, “Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah!” But before you bang that gavel, just know you may not have all the necessary information. To do that, you’d have to really listen, wouldn’t you? Also, make sure you don’t judge someone by their accent, the way they sound, or the structure of their sentences.

My dad is nearly 91. His English is sometimes a little broken and hard to understand. People wrongly assume that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about—they’re quite mistaken. My dad is a highly intelligent man who has English as his second language. He knows what he’s saying and understands the language perfectly.

Keep that in mind when listening to a foreigner, or someone who perhaps has a difficult time putting their thoughts into words.

Now, you know some of the things that make for an inferior listener. If none of the items above resonate with you, great! You’re a better listener than most.

How To Be a Better Listener

For conversation’s sake, though, let’s just say that maybe you need some work in the listening department, and after reading this article, you make the decision to improve. What, then, are some of the things you need to do to make that happen? How can you be a better listener?

1. Pay Attention

A good listener is attentive. They’re not looking at their watch, phone, or thinking about their dinner plans. They’re focused and paying attention to what the other person is saying. This is called active listening.

According to Skills You Need, “active listening involves listening with all senses. As well as giving full attention to the speaker, it is important that the ‘active listener’ is also ‘seen’ to be listening—otherwise, the speaker may conclude that what they are talking about is uninteresting to the listener.”[1]

As I mentioned, it’s normal for the mind to wander. We’re human, after all. But a good listener will rein those thoughts back in as soon as they notice their attention waning.

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I want to note here that you can also “listen” to bodily cues. You can assume that if someone keeps looking at their watch or over their shoulder, their focus isn’t on the conversation. The key is to just pay attention.

2. Use Positive Body Language

You can infer a lot from a person’s body language. Are they interested, bored, or anxious?

A good listener’s body language is open. They lean forward and express curiosity in what is being said. Their facial expression is either smiling, showing concern, conveying empathy, etc. They’re letting the speaker know that they’re being heard.

People say things for a reason—they want some type of feedback. For example, you tell your spouse, “I had a really rough day!” and your husband continues to check his newsfeed while nodding his head. Not a good response.

But what if your husband were to look up with questioning eyes, put his phone down, and say, “Oh, no. What happened?” How would feel, then? The answer is obvious.

According to Alan Gurney,[2]

“An active listener pays full attention to the speaker and ensures they understand the information being delivered. You can’t be distracted by an incoming call or a Facebook status update. You have to be present and in the moment.

Body language is an important tool to ensure you do this. The correct body language makes you a better active listener and therefore more ‘open’ and receptive to what the speaker is saying. At the same time, it indicates that you are listening to them.”

3. Avoid Interrupting the Speaker

I am certain you wouldn’t want to be in the middle of a sentence only to see the other person holding up a finger or their mouth open, ready to step into your unfinished verbiage. It’s rude and causes anxiety. You would, more than likely, feel a need to rush what you’re saying just to finish your sentence.

Interrupting is a sign of disrespect. It is essentially saying, “what I have to say is much more important than what you’re saying.” When you interrupt the speaker, they feel frustrated, hurried, and unimportant.

Interrupting a speaker to agree, disagree, argue, etc., causes the speaker to lose track of what they are saying. It’s extremely frustrating. Whatever you have to say can wait until the other person is done.

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Be polite and wait your turn!

4. Ask Questions

Asking questions is one of the best ways to show you’re interested. If someone is telling you about their ski trip to Mammoth, don’t respond with, “that’s nice.” That would show a lack of interest and disrespect. Instead, you can ask, “how long have you been skiing?” “Did you find it difficult to learn?” “What was your favorite part of the trip?” etc. The person will think highly of you and consider you a great conversationalist just by you asking a few questions.

5. Just Listen

This may seem counterintuitive. When you’re conversing with someone, it’s usually back and forth. On occasion, all that is required of you is to listen, smile, or nod your head, and your speaker will feel like they’re really being heard and understood.

I once sat with a client for 45 minutes without saying a word. She came into my office in distress. I had her sit down, and then she started crying softly. I sat with her—that’s all I did. At the end of the session, she stood, told me she felt much better, and then left.

I have to admit that 45 minutes without saying a word was tough. But she didn’t need me to say anything. She needed a safe space in which she could emote without interruption, judgment, or me trying to “fix” something.

6. Remember and Follow Up

Part of being a great listener is remembering what the speaker has said to you, then following up with them.

For example, in a recent conversation you had with your co-worker Jacob, he told you that his wife had gotten a promotion and that they were contemplating moving to New York. The next time you run into Jacob, you may want to say, “Hey, Jacob! Whatever happened with your wife’s promotion?” At this point, Jacob will know you really heard what he said and that you’re interested to see how things turned out. What a gift!

According to new research, “people who ask questions, particularly follow-up questions, may become better managers, land better jobs, and even win second dates.”[3]

It’s so simple to show you care. Just remember a few facts and follow up on them. If you do this regularly, you will make more friends.

7. Keep Confidential Information Confidential

If you really want to be a better listener, listen with care. If what you’re hearing is confidential, keep it that way, no matter how tempting it might be to tell someone else, especially if you have friends in common. Being a good listener means being trustworthy and sensitive with shared information.

Whatever is told to you in confidence is not to be revealed. Assure your speaker that their information is safe with you. They will feel relieved that they have someone with whom they can share their burden without fear of it getting out.

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Keeping someone’s confidence helps to deepen your relationship. Also, “one of the most important elements of confidentiality is that it helps to build and develop trust. It potentially allows for the free flow of information between the client and worker and acknowledges that a client’s personal life and all the issues and problems that they have belong to them.”[4]

Be like a therapist: listen and withhold judgment.

NOTE: I must add here that while therapists keep everything in a session confidential, there are exceptions:

  1. If the client may be an immediate danger to himself or others.
  2. If the client is endangering a population that cannot protect itself, such as in the case of a child or elder abuse.

8. Maintain Eye Contact

When someone is talking, they are usually saying something they consider meaningful. They don’t want their listener reading a text, looking at their fingernails, or bending down to pet a pooch on the street. A speaker wants all eyes on them. It lets them know that what they’re saying has value.

Eye contact is very powerful. It can relay many things without anything being said. Currently, it’s more important than ever with the Covid-19 Pandemic. People can’t see your whole face, but they can definitely read your eyes.

By eye contact, I don’t mean a hard, creepy stare—just a gaze in the speaker’s direction will do. Make it a point the next time you’re in a conversation to maintain eye contact with your speaker. Avoid the temptation to look anywhere but at their face. I know it’s not easy, especially if you’re not interested in what they’re talking about. But as I said, you can redirect the conversation in a different direction or just let the person know you’ve got to get going.

Final Thoughts

Listening attentively will add to your connection with anyone in your life. Now, more than ever, when people are so disconnected due to smartphones and social media, listening skills are critical.

You can build better, more honest, and deeper relationships by simply being there, paying attention, and asking questions that make the speaker feel like what they have to say matters.

And isn’t that a great goal? To make people feel as if they matter? So, go out and start honing those listening skills. You’ve got two great ears. Now use them!

More Tips on How to Be a Better Listener

Featured photo credit: Joshua Rodriguez via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Skills You Need: Active Listening
[2] Filtered: Body language for active listening
[3] Forbes: People Will Like You More If You Start Asking Follow-up Questions
[4] TAFE NSW Sydney eLearning Moodle: Confidentiality

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