Suppose that Trick 1 turns things around in your house and it may. Suppose your children begin to behave the way you always hoped they would. Would your family then “live happily ever after” as in the fairy tales?
This is highly unlikely, for two major reasons. First, your children, and you too, will continue to grow and change. New issues will arise. Confusions and surprises are part of growth.
Second, pressures from the outside world will intrude. No one grows up without some problems. Whether from their personal growth or from conflicts with friends, with school or with you, your children will continue to experience difficulties. What can you do? This is where the second trick comes into play.
Trick 2 is listening. Listening is the basis for all counseling and therefore is part of the training for therapists. For parents, it is the single most useful skill for handling tough situations. Parents also deserve training in listening.
People often say, “What do you mean by ‘learn to listen’? I listen all the time. With the racket in my house you’d have to be deaf not to hear the kids.” But Trick 2 is not just hearing our children’s noise, but actively listening to their spoken and unspoken comments in ways that are helpful.
To listen actively, the first step is to show with your eyes and your body that you are listening. Look at your child, and focus your attention on him or her.
As your child talks, respond just enough to let her know you really hear her, but do not interrupt what she wants to tell you. Usually a word or two, a syllable or even just a nod, is better than a whole sentence, and far better than a lecture.