blog | Feb 21, 2011 | 0 Comments

The Power of Listening

As a first time mom, we anticipate certain firsts with our children;  first steps, first words, and in the case of this story, first grade. New clothes, new backpack, the school supplies. Joyful moments to celebrate this great first. We walked him down to the bus stop and shuddered at how small he looked next to that big yellow bus. But my heart was full, my boy was growing up.

The first week we were settling into the routine, learning the rules of the classroom and how his day would be structured. Then the reality of it all began to set in, school was not going to be sunshine and roses and the soothing smell of chalk for my son like it was for me.  During the second week of school, it began.  “Mommy please don’t make me go. – Mommy, I’m sick, I can’t go to school.  Mommy can’t I please just stay home with you today.” and sometimes actual tears.

I told myself it was just the jitters of getting used to school but who was I kidding, as a working mom, this kid had been in daycare since he was 8 weeks old.  This was not mommy – son separation anxiety.  I began to dread mornings. I tried all kinds of interesting tactics.  Get up earlier and prepare or just pull the covers over my head until the last minute. I tried flipping the lights on with my sing song attitude to motivate him, I threatened him that I’d go to jail if he didn’t go to school. I lived in the spectrum of Mr. Rogers in female form to Mommy Dearest.  Nothing worked. Many mornings after the big yellow bus pulled away, I drove to my work appointments with tears streaming. My heart ached and my stomach dreaded, 12 more years.  Surely we wouldn’t survive.

About three months into the dysfunction of our new first grade lives, I had returned home from teaching The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People to one of my clients.  (There’s no shortage of irony with the chaos in my house and the principles of effectiveness that I teach for a living, trust me.) My flight had gotten in late and I had three days away from the morning routine at home to get some space and perspective.  As I walked down the hallway into my son’s room, I realized there was one thing I hadn’t yet tried.

I stepped into his dark room. I peeled back the covers. I snuggled myself in beside him. I brushed back his hair and whispered Good Morning into his ear.  He immediately rose with protests and negotiation on how not to go to school that day.  I didn’t respond, I simply listened.  I listened with my heart and my head. I brushed his hair and calmly showed him that I was listening.  I said, “It sounds like things are hard at school.” Without offering solutions, I continued to stroke his hair and let him tell me just how hard it was.  I offered very few words that morning, but my actions spoke volumes. After he had exhausted all of his thoughts, fears, and frustrations and he snuggled in close knowing that I heard him, felt him, and had tried hard to truly understand, he fell quiet.  After a full minute of silence, I simply said, “Do you want waffles or pancakes?” Pancakes, he said. Then we both arose to face the morning, united.

My little guy didn’t cry or protest anymore that morning or many mornings following.  He was heard.  The need to be heard is the deepest human need. The ADHD relationship is difficult on both sides, those with, those living with.  In these moments of listening with head and heart, we bond past the lost homework, nagging, and forgetfulness.  We share in our commonness, our need to be heard, our need to feel that connection.

Empathic Listening Tips


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