I was talking with a cafemom friend the other night about whether or not "kids should be heard by adults" or rather, "should a child be encouraged to question an adult"??? I thought the various responses to the discussion thread were interesting...and by simply hanging out here at the cafe, I hope to shed some light on why it really is important to BE in the moment, with the child, fully present, both emotionally and physically....and listen to their voice.
We all say "Oh that is a GREAT drawing ~or~ "you are very smart", but do we show them by engaging with them?? Do we interact with our children based on our needs, or theirs.  I became interested in this aspect of parenting when I saw clearly that it was not really my words that "got through" to my chlidren, whether it be with praise or discipline, but really it was the way I make myself available to them, emotionally and physically. My mind and body are playing cars and dollies.
When they felt, at a very young age that I cared what they had to say, they had the freedom to form thoughts and opinions and well, that is what we are doing: building little people. Listening to them is a key element to loving them.
**Sometimes** we need to just "go through the motions", as we are preoccupied and have things taking our minds away from the present moment...but we should all remember to come back, as often as possible, to the place where our kids' open minds and hearts wait for us. The following is a little article cut and paste that draws this point home with three easy steps. Read and enjoy!!! Happy Parenting to ALL!!

 

Giving Your Child "Voice"

You can view the article in it's entirety by clicking the following link:

http://www.voicelessness.com/parenting.html

If I asked you what children need in order to be psychologically healthy, you would probably answer: love and attention.  Of course, you would be right--love and attention are essential for every child.  But, there is a third  psychological need critical to the emotional well-being of children: "voice."

What is "voice"?  It is the sense of agency that makes a child confident that he or she will be heard, and that he or she will positively impact his or her environment.  With this sense of agency comes the implicit belief that one's core has value.  Exceptional parents grant a child a voice equal to theirs the day that child is born. And they respect that voice as much as they respect their own.  How does a parent provide this gift?  By following three "rules:"

  1. Assume that what your child has to say about the world is just as important as what you have to say. 
  2. Assume that you can learn as much from them as they can from you. 
  3. Enter their world through play, activities, discussions: don't require them to enter yours in order to make contact.

I'm afraid this is not as easy as it sounds, and many parents do not do it naturally.  Essentially, a whole new style of listening is required.  Every time a young child says something, he or she is opening a door to their experience of the world--about which they are the world's foremost expert.  You can either keep the door open and learn something of value by asking more and more questions, or you can close it by assuming you have heard everything worth hearing.  If you keep the door open, you are in for a surprise--your children's worlds are as rich and complex as your own, even at age two. 

If you value your children's experience, of course they will too.  They will feel:  "Other people are interested in me.  There is something of value inside me.  I must be pretty good."   There is no better anti-anxiety, anti-depressant, anti-narcissism inoculation than this implicit sense of worth. Children with voice have a sense of identity that belies their years. They stand up for themselves when necessary. They speak their mind and are not easily intimidated. They accept the inevitable frustrations and defeats of life with grace and keep moving forward. They are not afraid to try new things, to take appropriate risks. People of all ages find them a joy to talk with.  Their relationships are honest and deep.

Many well-intentioned parents think that they can create the same effect by saying positive things to their children:  "I think you're very smart/pretty/special etc.  But without entering the child's world, these compliments are seen as false.  "If you really felt that way, you would want to know me better," the child thinks.   Other parents feel that their role is to give advice or educate their children--they must teach them how to be worthwhile human beings.   Sadly, these parents reject the child's experience of the world entirely and do great psychological damage--usually the same damage that was done to them.

Children who are not given "voice" often feel defective and worthless, even if they have received love and attention.   Many of their behaviors represent an effort to counter these feelings.  Depending on temperament and other factors, they may build protective walls, take drugs to escape, starve and purge themselves to "look better," bully other children, or simply succumb to crippling depression and anxiety.

The psychological problems do not end with childhood. 

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Comments:

Baps
Apr. 6, 2007 at 4:58 AM

"**Sometimes** we need to just "go through the motions", as we are preoccupied and have things taking our minds away from the present moment...but we should all remember to come back, as often as possible, to the place where our kids' open minds and hearts wait for us."

Excellent post. You shed light on something we all need to be mindful of.

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mommy...
Apr. 6, 2007 at 10:35 AM

Believe me, my daughter has a voice. Sometimes, It's hard to "hear " what hoes on with the rest of the world, but both of my kids know that when I say they are special, I mean it, and I know it.

It really isn't easy sometimes to remember how important this is to children. Thanks for the reminder.

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Guinh...
Apr. 8, 2007 at 9:35 PM

Oh my gosh. Good post!

I listen to my kids. I have to! They're good kids, but tricky tricky haha! If I even appear to be distracted, then somehow I find that I have agreed to take them all for ice cream before dinner and a new kitten to boot! Engaging with my chilluns is always the best thing ever. I'm not just there... I'm there.

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