When a child feels upset and possibly angry with something you have done, reflective listening may not be enough. You want to attempt to understand the false, self-limiting beliefs that create the feelings. When you are listening reflectively and notice that your child remains defensive and upset, it might be time to ask some questions.
Children have mistaken ideas about the world, especially about relationships. They can misread social ques, think you love their sibling more than you love them, and believe that they are being treated unfairly because they don’t fully understand the circumstances.
You can ask such things as, “Does it seem like I’m judging you or making you wrong?” “What are some of the things I have done or said that make you feel upset?” This can only work if the parent’s true intent is to be open to learning about what is going on for their child. It is the loving nature of the parent during exploration that helps a child move out of a protective state. Protective states keep all of us stuck into being closed to solving issues or learning something that we can’t see in that moment.
For everyone, if emotions are strong, it might require time before going into exploration, this requires some patience. The essence of this process opens up deep pain and fear allowing those feelings to be healed. If we want our children to be loving, caring human beings, we need to be there for them when they are in pain. Being present in this way allows negative emotions to move on rather than staying stored and unresolved. It is also important to know that you can listen to a child’s feelings without agreeing with their perceptions.
If thoughts aren’t corrected or if situations aren’t fully understood, the negative feelings will persist. What to do:
- Start by listening to your child’s feelings, naming them and allowing your child to express them.
- When you see that your child can’t move forward you can give it time or you can move into asking questions.
- Repeat the child’s perceptions so that he or she knows you understand them.
- Respectfully, hold up a more realistic, neutral or loving explanation.
Now give the child time to digest and ask questions of his or her own.