I reviewed Listen by Patty Wipfler and Tosha Schore.
I love the simple tips from the authors to reset our entire parenting philosophy.
I have been going in this direction for a while and it just affirms my beliefs to respect my children and LISTEN to them instead of assuming.
As a homeschool mom who gave up a university teaching career to stay home to raise and educate my four babies, I’m always looking for tips on parenting and educating to improve myself and offer my readers.
Listen offers some unique approaches to parenting that I have not previously seen, with Q&A and role playing scripts to walk parents through tantrums and conflicts toward a peaceful end, connecting with and listening to the child’s needs. I think these methods would work with any child, even with special needs. It offers respect and gentleness to every interaction with a child. These ideas should be taught in every daycare, preschool, and school. I see too many teachers and parents dismiss children without listening, hearing, or caring about the child’s needs.
I especially like the part in the book that encourages us as adults to listen to ourselves and ponder why our reaction to certain situations is negative or immature. The authors offer great insight into our current behaviors because of unmet needs as children.
I highly recommend this book to every care giver of children!
Q & A from the authors of Listen: Five Simple Tools to Meet Your Everyday Parenting Challenges
Why did you want to write this book?
Patty: The Listening Tools we describe are so powerful, I felt compelled to try to spread word about them broadly! Hundreds of parents we have worked with at Hand in Hand Parenting have asked for this book to be written. Every parent dreams of helping their child with the hard parts of childhood. And every parent wants to resolve their child’s behavior problems, not just cope with them. When parents know how to strengthen their connection with their child, the rewards in parenting flow in, and children thrive. We simply had to write this book!
What do you think made you the right person to write Listen?
Patty: I have over forty years of experience with this approach. I know many children who were raised this way, and see how they are parenting their own children. The benefits stretch through the generations! And I’m in close contact with many hundreds of parents using this approach, and have brought over 130 stories, in their own words and from their own lives, to illustrate how parents can use the tools we present to alleviate difficulties in their children’s lives. Parents have the power to heal and grow in the process! I have seen it so many times, with all kinds of parents!
What are the most important things you want parents to take away from reading this book?
I want parents to know that they have the power to help their children with a few very simple changes in how they think about and interact with them. And that their children are far smarter than any one of us would ordinarily guess. Even when their child is in the middle of a tantrum, he’s doing the smartest thing possible. And I hope parents will discover that connecting with one another, listening to one another, they can enhance their own ability to parent with generosity and wisdom.
Your book suggests that by using five simple tools parents can make enormous changes in their families and that these changes can have an impact on society in general. Can you tell us what you mean by that?
When we take intimidation and punishment out of parenting, and replace them with well-set limits and listening to children’s feelings, they tend to grow up with greater confidence, greater resilience, and a greater capacity for creative and collaborative work. These attributes are what we’ll need in order to solve the pressing problems of an increasingly complex and connected world.
On first hearing about your approach some parents may think it feels permissive to listen to an upset or tantruming child. How do you respond to parents who say “The real world isn’t going to listen to their feelings” or similar things?
It is difficult to listen to a child who’s throwing a tantrum! And many people on the street wouldn’t be up for doing that. But listening to an upset child has the effect of allowing the child to resolve the issue, and that child, who is supported to work her feelings though, is so much more cooperative and easygoing afterwards! So we’re saying, try it once or twice, and see if it doesn’t save you time and aggravation in the longer run. And as for the people in the “real world,” they’re not your child’s parents. We’ve seen that when a parent sets reasonable limits and then listens to their child’s upsets, that child works through a backlog of upsets over time. Meanwhile, leadership qualities grow, along with a child’s sense that his parents really do support him. This sense of connection is invaluable going into the teen years. It sets children up for “the real world” quite well!
Your approach suggests parents move away from punishments, consequences, and Time Out. If instead you are giving attention to children aren’t you rewarding bad behavior?
In order to think well, and to take others into consideration, children need to feel connected to their parents or the other trusted people they are with. When children don’t feel connected, their minds shut down, and out pops unworkable behavior. The real remedy is to rebuild the sense of connection, and sometimes, that entails allowing a child to release the feelings that have built up inside. Our approach is built on the idea that a misbehaving child is a child who feels hurt. A well-set limit, followed by listening to the feelings that limit brings up, is a powerful remedy for misbehavior, and the best part about it is that over time, a child becomes far less likely to fall into that same misbehavior. The same is not true of punishment or of isolating a child. The problem comes around again and again, because the child’s hurt feelings haven’t been heard. Limits, followed by support and connection, supports a child’s inborn intelligence. It models caring, and trust in a child’s innate goodness.
Parents with two-job households or who are struggling to get by may thing this type of parenting is for rich white people, not the real world. What do you do to include a wide variety of different kinds of parents in your work?
We have a diverse Instructor corps, who reach out to and teach a wide variety of parents. Our Instructors include single parents, parents of one to eight children, adoptive parents, parents of children with disabilities, parents who are immigrants, gay parents, parents who are in recovery, parents who grew up poor, African American parents, Latino/a parents, Asian parents, and parents on five continents. We raise money each year to support classes for parents who can’t afford them, and are working for ever greater diversity in our outreach and training programs.
I have more than one child, how can I possibly stop everything to listen to one of them?
Parenting is a juggling act! Unfortunately, we can’t change that! What seems to help is the Listening Partnership, the one-on-one exchange of listening that we encourage parents to do so that they can both give and get support. The trust that builds when parents actually listen to one another’s thinking and feelings is great. And over time, having someone you can think with regularly makes a huge difference in your ability to make the most of the energy you do have, and the opportunities your children give you. You are offloading your own feelings, so situations don’t bug you so much. Your children are offloading their feelings, with your support, so situations don’t bug them so much over time. And life becomes more fun, more satisfying. You are solving difficulties, rather than just coping with them. So even our Instructor with eight children has found that life, though challenging, is easier with Listening Tools at her fingertips than it ever was without them. We have several stories in Listen from parents of multiple children!
How do you respond to parents out there who are thinking, “Both of us work and we’re busy, we don’t have time to hear every feeling about everything our kids might not like” or “Once they get to school no one is going to listen to how they feel, they are going to have to deal with it.”
That’s right! When we aspire to be “perfect parents,” we’re bound to fail. There is no “perfect parent,” and I don’t think there ever will be. But our children aren’t hothouse flowers. They thrive when we sometimes listen, sometimes play, sometimes snuggle. Each time we do listen, they get a renewed sense of our love and support, and they get a precious chance to be supported as they clear out hurt feelings beneath the issues that bother them often. And however harsh a child’s external environment might be, having a haven of support when they get home will ensure that they get the best possible foundation from which to use their fine intelligence. From a safe haven with a supportive parent, a child can bump up against adversity, learn, and grow. We’ve seen children thrive and excel despite situations like brain injury, birth trauma, physical differences, and learning disabilities with grace and intelligence, with good support from their parents.
What Are the Five Simple Tools You Need to Meet Your Everyday Parenting Challenges?
Listen: Five Simple Tools to Meet Your Everyday Parenting Challenges.
Each of the five Hand in Hand Listening Tools plays an important role in building wellbeing for your family. The tools work together to connect you and your children. And your child’s developing mind needs a close sense of connection with you as surely as she needs food, shelter, cleanliness, and sleep.
Special Time is a simple way to pour love and attention into your child. You set aside one-on-one time, and let your child choose what the two of you will do. She will use this time to show you what’s important to her and reveal her struggles. Special Time lets your child feel seen. It deepens her trust in you, while giving you a window into her thinking. It builds the sense of safety that promotes cooperation. Special Time can help connect you and your child from her earliest years through her adolescence, young adulthood, and beyond. It’s almost always the first Listening Tool to reach for when you’re thinking, “I don’t know what to do with this kid!”
Staylistening transmits your caring while your child feels hurt or afraid, and is expressing intense feelings. She pours out the hurt she feels; you listen, and pour in your quiet confidence that she’ll recover. You protect her while she feels alone and undone. Listening to your child’s upset doesn’t mean approving of her feelings; it’s your way of bathing her in your caring during her toughest moments. As her feelings pour out, an emotional burden will lift, and she’ll be left with the deep imprint of your love and support in its place. Both you and she will learn that feelings of hurt will heal when someone listens and cares. Because most of us were not listened to in this way, Staylistening can be challenging for a parent. But this tool has the power to lift your child’s spirits and transform bothersome behavior.
Setting Limits is crucial in your work as a parent. Your child needs and deserves a limit the minute her behavior starts to veer off track. A good limit gives your child the chance to offload the emotional tension that clouds her behavior, so she can return to the fun of learning and enjoying those around her. We’ll help you recognize the early warning signals your child sends out, and show you how to set limits without harshness. There are even ways to bring a limit that will fill your child with laughter.
Playlistening is the art of eliciting laughter in play with your child, without tickling. A heartwarming, creative tool, it will strengthen your connection as you make time for fun and enjoyment. Laughter is a powerful antidote to stress. Your child’s confidence will build as you learn to instigate playful role reversal and games full of friendly challenge and affection. Laughter will foster warmth in your family.
Finally, the Listening Partnership gives you a way to replenish your energy for parenting. An exchange of listening time with another parent can help you shed the stress that crops up when you live with young children. A Listening Partnership also gives you a haven for learning. You get a safe, private place to unfold your thoughts and feelings. How do you want your parenting to be different from the way you were raised? What gifts from your parents do you want to pass on? When you find yourself struggling with your child over a particular issue, how does your own past experience come into play? You’ll also have the privilege of listening to another parent as they think, feel, and learn. You won’t exchange advice, but you’ll learn from one another every time you meet. As you listen and are listened to, you’ll find it easier to enjoy your children, and to connect warmly with them during their troubled moments.
So there you have it!
Each tool is powerful in its own right, but no one tool is meant to be used alone. Setting limits—your use of parental power—is tempered with Special Time, which puts your child in the driver’s seat for short chunks of time. Playlistening, the lighthearted side of parent-child interactions, helps to balance out the full-throated drama your child goes through as you Staylisten. Your Listening Partnership is a vital learning laboratory, as well as your sanctuary. There, you are respected and understood. Your every feeling is welcome, every experience is of interest, and every thought, an important one.
With these five Hand in Hand Listening Tools, you can fully express your deep love for your kids and strengthen your family life. Enjoy!
By Patty Wipfler, Hand in Hand Parenting