There was an incident at a sporting event where Dad became really frustrated with his six-year-old son, Stewart, when he refused to leave the baseball stadium. Exasperated, Dad resorted to dragging Stewart out of the stadium. No physical injuries were sustained, but it took an emotional toll on them both.
Sometimes, we are so certain that our child has heard us, but it turns out that, actually, they may not have. So we might say, “I wonder what you heard me say,” and our child may genuinely say, “I don’t know.” That’s an important piece of information, so we can make sure we are attending to one another before we say what it is that we want to say again. Otherwise as parents, we often hear us repeating ourselves fifteen times and then become frustrated when it wasn’t processed properly from the onset.
We talked about how, instead, Dad might pause and put a hand on his son’s shoulder, to say that it’s time to leave the sporting event. Then, he would take the time to say to his son, “I wonder if you heard what I said.” In this way, we might have our child reflect back what it is that they heard us say, so that we know we are all on the same page. Otherwise, it feels like the world is happening to us -- and for our children, it may feel like they are not contributors to their own experience.
We have to take a moment to slow down, and make sure that our interactions are effective by making sure we are both attending instead of being distracted so that we are able to reflect back what we have heard the other person say. Then we all know that we are speaking the same language and sharing the same ideas in the same moment in time. Otherwise, our interactions can unravel pretty quickly, and become an escalated encounter instead of a productive one.