“She’s viciously swearing, venomously shouting horrible things” I explain to my Listening Partner.
I am relating the story of my morning; a repetitive recurring interaction between me and my 6 year old daughter.
I am talking to my Listening Partner – an acquaintance I speak with weekly. We’ve agreed to give each other 10 minutes either way. She listens to me and I listen to her in return. This is modus operandi mum self-care, because I’m blowing it big time and want things to change.
I know from experience that 10 minutes of warm, non-judgemental listening can work like a miracle, realizing a lightness of being where answers to parenting dilemmas are found within. It is an empowering process. This is what it looks like:
I go on to describe what it is like to be at the end of such a brutal assault.
“I start out ok, but before too long I feel overwhelmed… I start to feel like I’m the target… I can’t help it, the words sting and I feel the urge to cry. So I remove myself to the kitchen in an attempt to regroup; I try to find some self-compassion. I acknowledge inwardly that I don’t deserve to be spoken to in such a way and try to tell myself that her words are not personal; but I feel helpless, angry and tears spring to my eyes.”
I share how my daughter followed me into the kitchen. “Check this out” I say “The very second she suspects my tears she exclaims “HA! I made you cry!”
Of course, I immediately pack the tears away and deny any such thing… “as if!!?”
By now, I am feeling pretty wired retelling this story, thrown right back into feeling how I felt at that time.
My Listening Partner stays quietly with me. I can feel her warmth, her caring and most strongly her belief in me that I will work this out. No words required. Accepted as and where I am, I reflect inwardly.
Suddenly the feeling is there. “You can’t control me!” I want to shout. In fact encouraged by my Listening Partner, I do shout – and guess what? I find I’m not yelling at my daughter. I am now my 6-year-old self and I am directing this exclamation at my parents. “You can’t control me! I won’t let you” I say forcefully as if my parents are right there. And boy does that feel good, powerful. Infused with strength, I feel less of a victim. The tension has dissipated.
My Listening Partner asks me how it would be to let my daughter see my tears when I next feel the urge to cry.
Right there…the realisation hits me.
I see how the past, not my daughter, has been controlling my present. How these fights are re-stimulating old hurts, causing me to act out towards my daughter and her emotional intensity as if it were my parents coming down hard on me.
Another lightbulb moment!
My mind is clear and I have the information I need. My daughter has not been trying to control me or dominate me, instead I see that she must be hurting real bad. Through this listening time I have uncovered a valuable answer. It had been there all along!
The next time my daughter erupts and starts to use nasty, hurtful words I can be present. Now that i'm no longer thrown into the past I can get playful. We connect through laughter and I follow through with Playlistening (a child focussed Listening tool).
What happens next? Well, her laughter runs its natural course, she returns to her affectionate, loving, willing self and an evening of cooperation follows. No need to ask her why or for an apology either. Before the night is through she says “Mummy, sorry for saying bad things,” off her own back, in her own words, heartfelt and she shares about goings on at school that had stirred her up that day. Now regulated she accesses her wisdom and knowing.
This time I was able to connect in the midst of the storm because I had released the binding tension of old hurts, hurts that get triggered by certain off track behaviours. I was able to stay, play and listen just as my listening Partner had done for me. That day my daughter got to release the tensions of her day and I like to think… heal a little. And that's why listening can feel like a miracle.
My Listening Partnerships are part of my mental and emotional self-care. They give me a safe space where I learn what is getting in the way of being the parent I know I can and want to be, where I am developing the emotional muscle I need to be in authentic relationship with others, to connect.
Listening Partnerships are a big part of parenting self-care and vital when you spend so much time listening to children. Read more about their power in this post . You can find out more about Hand in Hand's tools in our downloadable booklets, including how to Reach For Your Angry Child. Sign up to for our monthly newsletter, for latest parenting tips, resources, workshops using connection parenting.
Miranda Fairhall is a qualified psychotherapist, a Certified Hand in Hand Parenting by Connection Instructor and among other things an ‘Aussie’ living in London with her English husband and their daughter. She discovered Hand in Hand Parenting soon after adopting in 2011.