What are you looking forward to this year?
What hopes and dreams do you hold in your heart?
I haven’t been blogging much. With all 3 kids in primary school now and my writing work on the side, I just don’t have the mind-space to write as much as I used to. But I will keep trying.
And today, I want to share about two new parenting skills I picked up in December.
1. Empathetic listening
A person who sits down with you, opens his ears and heart to listen to you, doesn’t judge, and tries to understand what it’s like to be in your shoes—this is empathetic listening.
As with many parents, I’m prone to giving instructions and advice. Perhaps we live in a pragmatic society that values efficiency and we won’t want our kids to make too many mistakes. We tend to go straight to problem-solving.
But by listening empathetically, actively, with your whole presence, we give our kids “psychological air”—the space to feel what they feel and to know they are safe in spite of those huge, hard feelings.
In doing so, we also get to help them identify some of those big emotions. They also learn to be more in tune with their feelings.
Left out during recess? “Oh, I’m so sorry to hear that… did you feel more lonely or sad?”
First day at school? “How do you feel about your first day tomorrow? Are you feeling worried?
Favourite snack sold out in the supermarket? “Oh dear, that must feel so disappointing. You were really looking forward to eating it.”
Crying because she had to leave a party early? “I can see you’re feeling really upset and frustrated we have to leave. Do you want to talk about it?”
Results so far?
Practising this skill at home has helped me be more patient in handling my kids when they’re having difficulties or feeling upset over something. I find that they calm down faster, and are more willing to listen after they feel like I’ve understood.
I’m definitely motivated to continue this. I feel kids in general need help in building their emotional skills and EQ. I believe this will strengthen their foundation in coping with life’s stresses and challenges!
This isn’t the first time I’m learning about I-messages but it is the first time I’ve practised it consistently with others in different scenarios and contexts. Basically, I-messages focus on my (the parent’s) feelings when a certain behaviour is seen. It could be positive behaviour, for example, “I like it when you are honest with me.” Or “I enjoy seeing you try your best in practising violin.”
It could also be negative behaviour, such as “I get very agitated when you guys shout or fight in the car. It makes it hard for me to concentrate on driving.”
At times it can also express a certain belief or value, for example, “I believe in working together as a team to tidy up.”
What is so powerful about I-messages?
I-messages are opposite from you-messages, which are unfortunately what most of us are used to dishing out daily. (“Why are you so untidy?” Why can’t you just listen to what I say?”)
The power of I-messages is that they don’t accord blame or guilt; they simply describe the feeling that is caused by a certain behaviour.
The best form of I-messages that I like to use is “I feel ______[emotion] when [describe the situation or action].”
So, they are compassionate and respectful, while also communicating the need to change the behaviour or to reflect on one’s wrong actions.
I think it’s powerful because it helps me be assertive without being aggressive. Thus reducing the need to shout or yell over anything that goes awry.
Results so far?
Similar to active listening, I feel this skill has helped me to slow down and express my wishes in a gentler, less aggressive way. In the beginning, my kids laughed because they weren’t used to it. Maybe I was still using an angry tone, rather than a reconciliatory one to express my needs. But I think they are slowly getting the hang of it!
Parenting classes in Singapore
If you’re keen to start the new year with new parenting skills under your belt, check out Parent Effectiveness Training (PET). Developed by psychologist and three-time Nobel Peace Prize Nominee, Dr. Thomas Gordon in 1962, PET offers proven communication skills that enhance relationships in and out of the home.
Here’s to building stronger relationships with our kids this year!
Disclaimer: I was offered to attend the PET training workshop for free in order to write this review. Views shared above are my own.