The answer is probably not what you think.
The answer is probably not what you think.
I can never get enough of Barry. He just makes such good sense. His thoughts about making work meaningful are of particular value to parents, whose work raising children can often seem full of mundane, repetitive tasks.
Here is a link to my interview with Barry, this one about children and choice.
“Kids. They just don’t listen.”
It really does seem that way, but only because we have a fundamental misunderstanding about how children listen.
Why don’t our children listen to us?
Because children don’t listen with their ears. At least not in an actionable way. Oh, the sound waves of our voices do enter their ear canals and the little bones in their middle ears vibrate and send the sensation of our words to their brains. But that is not the resonance we are really after—the actual hearing. We want—and need—our children to respond to what we say.
Most of the time, when parents complain that their children don’t listen, what they really mean is that their children don’t obey. They believe that their words and their children’s reactions should somehow be on the same sympathetic frequency. And to that end, there is a plethora of advice about how to say the right words in the right way in order to get our children to do what we reasonably expect them to do: clear their places after dinner, brush their teeth, stop hitting their little brothers, etc.
But this well-meaning advice misses the whole point.
Small children—those under age seven—are imitators. They learn by watching and imitating what others do. Oh, they are listening, too! That’s why, when they drop something, they blurt out, “Sh*t!” with just the same force and inflection we give it when we drop something. Similarly, our children will learn to greet the neighbors with a friendly wave and a “Hi, how are you?” if they see and hear us doing it that way consistently.
Children listen with their whole bodies, not just their ears. Their operating language is action. It is all about what we do, not what we say. Children need to be shown what to do—over and over and over—not told what to do.
So if you are rushing to send off a last email and wolf down a last bite of toast while calling out that it is time to get jackets and mittens on, your children will likely continue “their” play, until you get up and put on your own jacket and mittens.
And just as children learn by imitating what we do, they also learn that our words don’t really mean anything when we do not match our words with our actions. When a parent tells her child that it is time to leave the playground but then stands in the parking lot chatting with a friend for a few more minutes, her words may have said, “Go,” but her actions have said, resoundingly, “Stay.”
The real answer to the question, “Why don’t my children listen to me?” is: because you are talking.
If you want your child to hear what you say, by all means, speak. If you want your child to do what you say, act.
So grateful to Elephant Journal for publishing another article about children and will.
What would you add to the list?
In my new book, Parenting in the Here and Now, I reframe many of the issues and challenges that today’s parents face. One of those issues concerns the role that choice plays in raising children.
Choices seem to be the all-purpose go-to remedy now. An article in the Wall Street Journal about the importance of chores—a topic that is very close to my heart—included, almost as an afterthought—that parents should offer their children choices about what chores they do. A recent article in the Washington Post suggested that parents model boundaries and consent by offering their toddlers a choice between chewy dinosaur vitamins or gummy robots. Faced with a temper tantrum or a power struggle? The answer is always the same: offer choices.
Our misunderstanding of the role and value of choice has had a profound impact on families. By digging deeper into how children learn to make choices and by asking questions about not only how much choice is healthy, but also about when choice is appropriate, we can dispel common myths and find practical steps that parents can take in their own households, steps that will bring their families into more balance, steps which will help form the foundation for building their children’s capacities to make good choices.
And so I turned to Barry Schwartz to add his insight and perspective to the discussion of this issue. He is a professor at Swarthmore College, where he has been teaching in the fields of psychology and economics since 1971. In his book and TED Talk of the same name: The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less, Barry Schwartz takes aim at a central tenet of western societies: freedom of choice. In his estimation, choice has made us not freer but more paralyzed, not happier but more dissatisfied.
In our interview, Barry Schwartz discusses his thoughts on why we hold freedom of choice so dear, on the challenges of making good choices, and on what parents might consider when they are choosing when to give choices to children.
Barry is warm, funny and wise. I think you will enjoy hearing what he has to say. Click here to watch our interview, and I encourage you to watch his TED Talks, The Paradox of Choice and The Loss of Wisdom, and if you have the time, to read his books by the same names. The questions he asks are the questions that we all need to ask.
My dearest readers,
It has been quiet on the blog, but bigs things have been happening.
My publisher, Floris Books, is releasing my new book, Parenting in the Here and Now: Realizing the Strengths You Already Have on April 16, 2015 in the UK (and on Kindle), and in the United States in June or early July. It is available on Amazon now for pre-order.
My new website, www.LeaPageAuthor.com, has excerpts and reviews as well as some tidbits about me and about writing the book, and there are links to other published work, guest-blogs and soon: interviews. The first interview is about children and choices, with Professor Barry Scwhartz, TED talk presenter and author of several books, among them The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less. I will post that as soon as my intrepid IT/webmaster/better-than-McGyver guy (my husband) takes care of the upload.
Please come visit the website.
You will also find links to several published excerpts from my first memoir, Something About You, which is about raising my family in rural Montana.
I am now in the fingernail-biting process of sending out that manuscript (Floris Books doesn’t publish memoir), and in the meanwhile, I am working on a second draft of a second memoir, Remaining A Stranger, which is about an epic, horse-drawn cart trip through rural Greece.
I hope to have much more to offer you in the coming weeks and months.