This is the most crucial type of listening we can have as parents. In this type of listening, we are digging to the depth of what is being communicated. Our objective is to look for the identity issues that are involved. This skill is a life skill and is required for most conflict management techniques. Our Question Asking skills will be put to the test as we look for the "edge" of things. We are uprooting the issues that are intertwined with identity.
This type requires an example for full comprehension. John has a problem with Jake, a boy in his team project at school. This will be a common problem that will come up with all our children. You might start by asking John how Jake's actions are affecting him. John will tell you about how if the project isn't done well or on time, his grade will be affected. Your next question will be to identify what happens if John does get a bad grade. John would then say that he couldn't be a good student if he got a bad grade. At this point, you have reached the "edge" of the issue where John's identity issues are. John can not picture a world where he can be both a good student and have a lousy grade. Your job now is to help John unlock these two things. Help him to see a world where John is both a good student and he has a bad grade.
For those of you who are like me, you may be thinking, "but I want my kid to get good grades." Unlocking John's identity will allow him to think of more effective ways to approach Jake about the conflict that is between them. When John's identity is tied to this, he will naturally devalue Jake elevating the project, a material thing, over Jake as a person. When we can unlock material issues from our identity, we stop seeing people as obstacles that must be overcome. Seeing people as obstacles blocks our ability for empathy, compassion, and love.
Here's another common issue that might come up. Jane has told her mom that Joana is being mean to her at school. Mom has identified the mean behavior as Joana rolling her eyes when Jane speaks, and other overall symptoms that Joana doesn't like Jane. Mom has discovered that Jane has tried to be kind and loving. Mom has taught Jane to live and love like Jesus and Jane has done what she's been taught. This kindness has always resulted in other kids liking Jane. Jane's identity as a kind Christian is locked with being nice. Jane cannot picture a world where she can be both kind and unliked.
Once Jane can picture a world where she can be both kind and unliked, you can then help her set healthy boundaries and give her a deeper understanding of what it means to love as Jesus did.
I hope these examples help you to understand what it means to listen to unlock. We are looking for the end of the problem where two things are locked together and helping our kids untangle these things.
In this type of listening, we are putting aside ourselves and our preconceptions so we can see things through the other person's eyes. It requires empathy and compassion as we ask questions to dig deeper into the root of what is being communicated. Remember what it was like to be a child and be curious about the world around us? With this type of listening, we must tap into that curiosity, and the person we are conversing with is the subject of that curiosity. It's important to note that a "fix" may eventually arise from this, but fixing is not our goal.
In high school, one of the things that always stood out to me about Jason was his love of others and his ability to love deeply all people. He talked to everyone the same, no one was distinguished as being more important than another person. He always was intentional about inviting and engaging people. He has carried that intentionality into how he parents our children.
With an eye toward the future, Jason is laying the groundwork for continued conversations and relationships with our kids. In this episode of the podcast, Jason and I talk about one practice he has, in particular, Dad Dates.
We’ll discuss how this habit started and what Jason is doing now to sustain it. We understand that not every family is as big as ours and this system may not work exactly as it is for your family. Some habits are not one size fits, but we hope this episode inspires you to think of ways you can intentionally engage with your children so that you are investing into the future of your relationship with them.
This Summer while I was practicing with making podcasts I recorded a conversation I had with our 3-year-old after his dad date, here it is if you are interested in listening to that as well.
Here we are using more listening skills than before, but only by a little. We are focused on our own discomfort in what is being communicated. Often we try to break the tension that we feel by fixing the problem that is being shared with us. We are listening for key details and equating their experience with our own looking for an opportunity to interject our own solutions. It is okay not to know an answer or a solution. Our identity as parents can get locked with our ability to fix our children's problems.
When listening, it is important to note that not all experiences are the same. While your child may be telling you about a situation in their life that seems similar to one you had as a child, they are not the same. The world we grew up in no longer exists, and the temperaments, personalities, and relationships of the people involved are all different. The next two types of listening will require skills in Asking Questions, and these questions can highlight the differences in experience and show that we are genuinely listening.
I didn’t grow up in a Christian home, but I did grow up in an average American home in the 80’s and 90’s. Christianity was still woven into the everyday and wasn’t offensive in public. Christmas I knew was about Jesus but to me it didn’t extend beyond the cute little nativity set my mom painted and sold at craft fairs. Easter I knew was also about Jesus and his death but I didn’t understand that and I knew nothing about the resurrection. Most of what I learned about God came from the Andy Griffith Show (which came on CBS after my mom’s soap operas) and from the evangelical neighbors next door and their daughters who were determined to tell me about God.
Each day I’d head outside in the backyard to play. The neighbors would also play in their backyard everyday. They had a “real” playset straight out of a catalogue; needless to say I desperately wanted to play on their playset. I was terribly nosey and watched through a knot hole in the fence as they put the set together, each screw made me more envious. When the set was done at last the new neighbors emerged to play. I watched with curiosity; sure these girls must be rich and spoiled to have such an amazing thing in their backyard.
It took a few days of watching them for me to realize they seemed pretty normal. One girl was my age and the other was only a year and a half younger. They seemed like best friends, a strange concept for me since my own sister was so much older than me and was currently in middle school and wanted nothing to do with me. At last, on a whim, I climbed to the top of the fence peaked my head over and said hi. That was the beginning of a very fruitful friendship. Each day they’d play outside on their playset and I’d climb the fence, poke my head over and chat with them.
Read more: The Kid on The Fence