Parents seldom take out time for their children to talk with them and listen to them. Conversation with children helps in strengthening the bond between parents and children. Parents can understand all the feelings and emotions of the child after a good conversation. Here's how to deal with your child's emotions.
Avinash was not happy with the way his wife Neena handled their 6-year-old Pranav. He felt that Pranav's misbehavior, to a large extent, was due to Neena not spending enough time talking to Pranav. Avinash believed that listening to children helps in the their development. He also believed that if parents patiently explained the right behavior to their children, they normally understood.
This however is not completely true!
Having seen Neena run out of patience, Avinash decided to take things in his hands. On one occasion, he sat down to talk to Pranav. This is how their conversation went:
Avinash-'How was your day Pranav?' Pranav- 'Nikhil is such a bad boy. He hit me so hard. I am so angry with him. I will not leave him tomorrow.'
Avinash heard out Pranav patiently and then explained-'Pranav, you must not get angry with him. Anger is bad. Tomorrow you must become friends with him again.'
The very next day Pranav had a big fight with Nikhil. Avinash wondered if listening and explaining helped in any way!
True listening involves understanding of feelings
Let us explore, what is happening in the little conversation above. Is Pranav really being listened to? Physically yes. However, the process of listening involves more than just listening to the words literally. True listening entails that the listener understands the feelings expressed by the speaker. After understanding the feelings, it is also important to communicate this understanding of the feelings back to the speaker. Here, Avinash could have done this with a statement like-' Pranav you really seem to be very angry with Nikhil'. This way Pranav's feeling is in a way reflected back to him.
This technique of being able to pick the feeling of the speaker and communicate it back to him in explicit words is known as reflection of feeling. When the appropriate feeling is reflected back to the speaker, he feels understood. And the crux of true listening is that the speaker should feel understood.
Being understood helps the person think rationally
A meaningful process takes place after a person feels understood. The energy, which was being used in the feeling of the intense emotions, gets released and becomes available for the thinking processes. The 'science' of counseling believes that every person functions on a fixed amount of energy, which is used for different activities like feeling, thinking etc. When too much energy goes into the area of feeling like the intense anger in Pranav's case, very less is left for the thinking. But when a person is able to express his feelings freely without being judged, he feels understood and is ready to think. So Pranav would have been more receptive to his father's advice if his anger was not judged with a statement like 'you must not get angry with Nikhil'.
Also, if the child is heard and understood, then very often the parents do not even have to give advice. The child then comes up with the correct counsel himself. For e.g.- if Shruti's complaint of feeling hurt due to her teacher's scolding is really 'listened to' and understood, she could come up with an understanding like ' But I was talking in class, naturally the teacher will be angry'. And of course, Shruti's coming up with this understanding herself would help her more than the parent explaining that she must have done something wrong to be reprimanded by the teacher.
Denied emotions find unhealthy ways of expression
On the flip side, if the child's feelings are denied in the interaction with the parents, the intense emotions are not able find release and the child finds other unhealthy ways of expressing his emotions. In Pranav's case when his anger was not understood, he tried the unhealthy way of expressing his anger by fighting with Nikhil again. The following example of a common situation in homes illustrates this point further: - When a child complains to his parents that they love his sibling more, his feelings are immediately denied with a statement like ' You should not feel jealous of your brother/sister'. The child then finds unhealthy ways of expressing his jealousy by maybe pinching his brother when the adults are not present.
Before summing up, I would like to say that, to be able to listen to and understand children effectively, it is first necessary for parents to accept that it is not wrong to experience negative feelings (like anger, hurt etc). After accepting this, it will be much easier for the parents to help their children deal with the negative emotions in a positive manner. This would go a long way in facilitating healthy emotional development of the child.