Friday, November 5, 2010

Low Tone, Low Emotion, and Listen

I'm going to admit something to you-- I am not a perfect mother. Sometimes I am not even sure if I am an adequate mother. Last night when I sat down to write the post for today, it was after an hour of my oldest tantrumming about not wanting to go to bed. And after battling with my four year old to eat some of the dinner I'd spent 45 minutes preparing. And after my toddler had stuffed all the freshly folded laundry into her play kitchen.
Bottom line, I could not find it in me to write about being thankful to be a mother. It was more like I was thankful that they were out of my hair for the next few hours.
Then I checked my email and I had received this guest post from one of my favorite people ever, Megan. She was my next door neighbor 5 years ago. We both had little kids and daddies that were MIA with school and work and we got to be good friends. Megan has always been an inspiration of a mother to me. She is excruciatingly patient. She has 3 kids, and her oldest has Prader-Willi Syndrome, which has presented social, speech, and physical challenges. Yet I've never heard Megan raise her voice with her kids. She is amazing. She also is super organized, has a strong testimony, serves others, eats healthy meals, etc. She's awesome and I am so glad she sent in this guest post!

Three Simple Things a Mother Can Do:

Low tone, low emotion & listen!

". . . get down and weep with them if necessary, and get them to shed tears with you if possible. Soften their hearts; get them to feel tenderly towards you. Use no lash and no violence, but . . . approach them with reason, with persuasion and love unfeigned." (Joseph F. Smith)

When I read this, I have this image of our family that I’d like to make happen way more than it does. I’d love for this image to be of me and Justin tenderly on our knees teaching our Sarah, Spencer, or Alli when there’s a moment presented to us each day.
So, as mothers how do we do this? It’s a human instinct to raise our voice, come up with some absurd discipline measure that our kids won’t even learn from and then continue to be angry—oh, probably the rest of the day. This gets us nowhere. Sound familiar? Or, maybe not; maybe this only happens at our house.
Justin and I are often at Prader-Willi Conferences' due to our oldest daughters special needs. We are constantly being taught that one of the best ways to get through to children with Prader-Willi Syndrome is "low tone, low emotion." I have to admit that whenever we hold true to a low voice, an unemotional face, and try our hardest to align our feelings inside that the most amazing transformation happens. The image mentioned above starts to pop up in real life!!!!
Wanna know a secret? It happens with our “normal” children too. If the kids don't see us stressed, over excited, or anxious-- they're not either. We have also always been firm believers in discipline with love, but sometimes in the heat of the moment it's not so lovely!
I love the moments of complete calm when a child has been struggling, tears running down their cheeks, sitting on the stool—hating being there and we have a break through moment when they feel like they're being listened to, I feel like I'm getting my love through and we've all actually learned something where the Spirit is present!
So, I guess the other part to using a low emotion voice (described as a soft spoken voice) and showing low emotion (described as pretending to not care or effect us) is being a good listener.
Have any of you ever felt like they were just being preached to or told how to solve a problem when all you really wanted was to be able to rant and rave for a minute to someone and have them listen? Usually, when I have a good listener present, in all my ranting and raving/talking I find my own conclusion anyway.
I think we can be a better mother, a better parent, by being that listener we wish we had. When are children come to us, we need to stop and just be silent. Really listen. Try avoid questioning, lecturing, pitying, advising. We need to observe their feelings; the words they are saying are usually never as important as the feelings they’re trying to express. Confirm their feelings. When we think we know how their feelings, ask them. My kids always keep talking if I’m right on.
Remember how we feel when we need a listener? Remember the part where we talk out our own conclusion? If we are patient and quiet then our kids feel we care and we begin to teach them how to solve their own problems. I even prompt them on what they think they could do or say, etc.
We teach our children values and ethics every day in what we do. Actions speak louder, and truer, than words. The time for words is never during a crisis. In quiet moments of love and caring, our children listen to what we say. I think that is why low tone, low emotion, and listening is soooo powerful! We’re showing what to do in moments of crisis—whether big or small. We’re abiding by Brigham Young’s words:
“Bring up your children in the love and fear of the Lord...never allowing yourself to correct them in the heat of passion.”
So, when do we do the talking, teaching, advising? Ever heard of Family Home Evening? This is the perfect time for our family to go over things we’d like to teach. Also, how about early morning scripture study—perfect for lessons straight from the best books!
“Regular reading of and talking about the Book of Mormon invites the power to resist temptation and to produce feelings of love within our families…and discussions about the doctrines and principles in the Book of Mormon provide opportunities for parents to observe their children, to listen to them, to learn from them, and to teach them…. Youth of all ages, even infants, can and do respond to the distinctive spirit of the Book of Mormon…. Importantly, such conversations can help parents to discern what their children are learning, thinking, and feeling about the truths contained in this sacred volume of scripture, as well as the difficulties they may be facing.” (David A. Bednar, Watching With All Perseverance, 2010)
“We have the greatest opportunity with the young. The best time to teach true doctrine is early, while children are still immune to the temptations of their mortal enemy, and long before the words of truth may be harder for them to hear in the noise of their personal struggles.” (Henry B. Eyring ,The Power of Teaching Doctrine 1999)
How about a one on one date when we take our kids out to make just them feel special? Maybe while we’re working on something side by side. What about Family council? Family Dinner each night? While your preparing your next meal with some help? How about when you’re in the car again?
“Parents should be vigilant and spiritually attentive to spontaneously occurring opportunities to bear testimony to their children… the less regimented such testimony sharing is, the greater the likelihood for edification and lasting impact.” (David A. Bednar, Watching With All Perseverance, 2010)
When we stand back and look at a two year old spilling milk on the floor, Bobby running out in the street, red lipstick covering our brand new white bed spread, Suzy hitting the baby in the head with a bat, Sarah telling me her room is clean when I find that a tornado exploded in there magically afterwards, etc….really the child knows and feels more than we think. Our low emotion/tone of voice is the start to a great solution. A listening ear and maybe even a humorous reaction softens hearts all around quicker than anything we can do. Once again that image that was described in the beginning can be “real life” to all of us.
So, thanks Laurie for letting me add one little thought or two to your “Small and Simple Ways” here on this blog. I feel so strongly as well that as we take little simple steps each day, great things will come! We are able to teach our children daily how to be much better listeners and have much softer hearts than we can even have!!!!

--Megan Kroff, Nov. 2010

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