Hi! I'm Coach Franny, and I empower families with challenging children to come together as problem solving teams through a Mindful-Ish® approach to parenting.
Active listening is an empathetic way of listening and responding to another person that improves mutual understanding and acceptance. It was made most famous by Dr. Thomas Gordon, who created the Gordon Model, an effective relationship model, in 1962. Active listening is a combination of verbal and nonverbal cues, which show engagement and interest in the conversation at hand. Active listening is essential to Mindful-Ish® Parenting because it shows a willingness to communicate and solve problems as a team.
At Mindful-Ish® we view Dr. Gordon’s roadblocks to communication as Parenting Penalties. These penalties are a natural tendency to try to help the person we are communicating with, instead of listening to their feelings and creating space for them to tell us what they need. There are 12 total Parenting Penalties that can be broken down into three categories: dismissive, hierarchical, and skeptical. By using these common yet unhelpful responses, you lose yardage with your kids.
When we engage in dismissive parenting penalties, we are sending our child a message that we don’t think their feelings or experiences are important enough to consider. Whether this means brushing off anxiety with a simple “don’t worry, it will all be okay,” or telling a child “not now” when they try to have a conversation, dismissive parenting penalties put the feelings or experiences of the parent above the child. These parenting penalties contribute to the limiting belief, “I’m not important.” The four dismissive parenting penalties are Praising, Reassuring, Questioning, and Avoiding
Example: Your child comes home from school and says, “I’m stupid,” and you respond, “Well, I think you’re smart.”
Example: Your teen says, “Why do I have to have curly hair?” and you respond, “People would die for those curls.”
Example: Your child says, “I don’t want to play in my soccer game tomorrow,” and you respond, “I’m sure you’ll feel differently in the morning.”
Example: Your teen says, “Eric hasn’t texted me all weekend,” and you respond, “There must be a good reason. It will be fine.”
Example: Your child says, “I brushed my teeth,” and you respond, “Are you sure? Let me smell your breath.”
Example: Your teen says, “I think I failed my midterm,” and you respond, “How long did you study? Did you complete the review? Have you been paying attention in class?”
Example: Your child says, “You said I can buy more Roblox games,” and you respond, “Just forget about those games already.”
Example: Your teen says, “Can I use the car later?” You respond, “Can you start paying the bills around here?”
Hierarchical parenting penalties are parent responses that tell children, “I have more power than you.” They reinforce the power dynamic that exists between parents and their children. While there is sometimes a need for a parent to assert power for safety reasons, we must remove hierarchy from conversations with our children. We want to ensure an open dialogue where they don’t feel shut down or on the defensive. The four hierarchical parenting penalties are Warning, Using Logic, Labeling, and Analyzing.
Example: Your child jumps off of the couch, and you say, “Do that again, and you’ll be sorry.”
Example: You tell your teen no phone at the dinner table, and they continue to scroll through TikTok. You say, “If I tell you one more time to get off the phone, I’m keeping it for good.”
Example: Your child says, “My tummy hurts,” and you respond, “You probably didn’t drink enough water today. You must be dehydrated. I keep telling you to drink more water.”
Example: Your teen tells you they might not want to go to college, and you respond, “What are you talking about? Those are going to be the best years of your life. Everyone feels like that at some point, but you need to consider the bigger picture. Trust me, I’ve been through it.”
Example: Your child says, “I think we need to turn on that street,” and you respond, “Okay, Smarty Pants.”
Example: Your teen asks for an expensive pair of sneakers, and you say, “Aren’t you a spoiled brat.”
Example: Your child comes out of their bedroom and says, “I’m scared.” You respond, “No, you’re not. You just want to watch TV.”
Example: Your teen says, “I don’t feel well,” and you respond, “You’re just trying to stay home because Kate is.”
Skeptical parenting penalties are parent responses that tell children, “You are not capable.” They send the message that the child can’t do anything right. These roadblocks discourage children from talking to their parents about problems. They can lead to the child struggling to believe in themselves and their ability to find solutions or think through the consequences of an action. The four skeptical roadblocks are Ordering, Moralizing, Advising, and Criticizing.
Example: Your child says, “I’m hungry,” and you respond, ” You will wait until dinner time to eat.”
Example: Your teen says, “My history teacher gives so much homework,” and you respond, “Stop complaining and get it done.”
Example: Your child is waiting in line with you at the grocery store and asks for candy. You respond, ” You should know I’m not buying you junk right now.”
Example: Your teen huffs and puffs when you tell them they will visit grandma on Sunday, and you respond, “You should feel so lucky to have a grandmother to visit.”
Example: You are at the park with your child, and they say, “Nobody wants to play with me. You respond, “Then find something else to do.”
Example: Your teen says, “I’m so lost in algebra,” and you respond, “I suggest you email your teacher immediately and find out if you can come in before school for extra help.”
Example: Your child interrupts your conversation with another adult, and you respond, “You are obviously not thinking very clearly.”
Example: Your teen asks to go to a party with a friend you do not trust and says, “Ryan is such a good kid.” You respond, ” I could not disagree with you more. Because you are so naive, I definitely can’t let you go with Ryan.”
Becoming aware of the common yet unhelpful responses (that literally block communication)is just the first step in developing a habit of using active listening with your children. Take note of when you find yourself earning these parenting penalties and losing yardage with your children and ask yourself – how is this working for me? If you feel it is not working, ask yourself – am I willing to change my approach?
When we find ourselves in the parenting penalty box, we tend to feel discouraged – we weren’t trying to break the rules! Parenting penalties happen most often when we are trying to fix, help, or stop behaviors and situations, but the responses do the opposite. By making a note of situations when we instinctively engage in a parenting penalty, we can begin to recognize the patterns causing us to do so. With this new information, we can make new choices and better engage in active listening and communication with our children.
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