Getting your kids to listen to you isn’t easy.
Amazing how they can tune you out every time you give them a directive. But then when we’re having a parental discussion in the living room, my 12-year-old will sprout super ears and yell out from his bedroom down the hallway and around the corner, “What did you say about me?”
Kids can listen when they want to.
Well, I’m inviting you to try a special listening exercise with your children. It’s something I added to our routine one summer when Hannah was 7 and George was 4.
See, I was really feeling the strain of their alliance with entropy. It seemed like too many days started off okay. But quickly spiraled into more and more chaos until I lost it or in desperation I sat them in front of the TV.
My husband recalls that the look of desperation on my face when he returned in the evening said it all.
So I decided that I had to make a change. And what better place to change the whole day than by changing how we started it.
I knew from experience that you can set the tone of the whole day with what you do in the beginning.
So every morning after breakfast, teeth-brushing, dish-washing and straightening up, here’s what we did:
We gathered in the living room, found a spot far enough away from each other so that no one could complain about errant feet or fingers and got comfortable.
Once everyone was settled in, I instructed them to close their eyes and listen. See what they could hear around them.
Now, admittedly, the first time we did this, Hannah had to interrupt the quiet several times to tell George to stop shaking his leg back and forth.
And George had to complain that Hannah was breathing too loudly.
And over the course of the first few days, the five minutes I was aiming for usually dissolved in giggles and guffaws as we tried this new venture.
But slowly but surely, things started to change.
We actually had a quiet few minutes of listening.
When five minutes had passed, I asked them what they heard.
“The dog barking.”
“I heard the wind.”
“George’s foot banging the couch.”
“My belly making noise.”
They started to look forward to seeing what they could hear. And as they got into the exercise more and more, we were able to extend the time more and more.
We added in a few yoga stretches and often did two sets of listening.
Now you could call this meditation. Or you could tell your children to try to be quiet for 5 minutes.
I don’t think that would fly.
But by turning it into a game – a challenge to listen and see what you can hear, it became something they wanted to do.
Let Listening For 5 Minutes Help You Start Your Day With Peace
Now, I’ll admit, it didn’t completely and dramatically transform our day like I hoped.
It seems children and entropy walk hand-in-hand. It’s a hard connection to break. I learned that I had to work harder on structure throughout the day as well.
But it did make a difference. A subtle change entered into our routine. The pandemonium that threatened didn’t seem quite so close. And while I wasn’t scientific about documenting this, I’d hazard to say it didn’t hit quite as frequently.
And we had a different feeling of closeness that helped balance out the eventual conflicts. I enjoyed this moment with my children. I wasn’t in the mode of manager as much as fellow explorer.
It was a revelation to enjoy some calm together.
If anything, adding this to our routine gave me a moment to connect with the centered, calm core I needed in order to be the adult in the household. You know, the one not throwing a tantrum too.
So try it out and see what happens. It doesn’t have to be a long time. Although with kids, just transitioning into it and getting everyone settled can take a good 10 minutes.
Like it did for us, it may set a different baseline for your day. It may help you set a different tone for how you communicate with each other. And bottom line, as a parent, it gives you a moment of peace that can be sorely needed.
Additional Hint: Our listening sessions are pretty peaceful in our country home. A stark contrast to the honks and sirens we heard in Brooklyn. If you live in the city, listen a little for some observation skill-building. But then you might want to add listening to a soothing CD of thunderstorms or ocean waves.
Also, if you like this exercise, it makes a great addition to your workday as well. Find out more about how you can use listening to bring clarity and productivity to your work or home business.