The World Won’t Listen

In which our reluctant hero reveals a most genius parenting trick, courtesy of HRH Sir Prince William.

Taking a break from nailing my head to the coffee table after the latest opportunity for the British public to prove exactly how stupid they are was announced, I embarked on some research for this week’s post. Don’t sound so surprised. Cheeky.

After a few minutes of rummaging through the headlines of Google’s recent parenting stories, I stumbled upon this gem from Marie Claire, whoever she is.

“Prince William Just Taught Us An Amazing Parenting Trick.”

Blimey. Did he? Really? I wonder what it could be. A spell that tidies up bedrooms, cleans teeth without an argument and reads bedtime stories perhaps? Or, better still, a most genius trick to instantly master potty training using just a two year old and a potty? Useful as I’m not sure that our rug will survive another soaking.

Marie was also teasing me with the shock news that the Prince’s considerably better half, Princess Kate, has a secret Mumsnet account. Nooooo!! Sadly for Marie, this particular piece of no doubt otherwise fine investigative journalism offered less appeal, having long suspected that the Duchess may actually be a commoner.

Back to the task in hand. What’s the trick, Wills? Let’s find out. Brace yourselves… CLICK!

It turns out that The Man Who Would (probably-depending-on-a-range-of-factors) Be King bends or crouches down when speaking to his children. Amazing indeed. Where does he get his crazy ideas?

Now, spending all day getting down and back up again is all very well for His Royal Sirness, he is a relatively young man after all, but possibly not so practical for us old dads who, once down, may need the rest of the day to get back up again. So why do it? Apparently, it helps us make effective eye contact with our little people. Which, in turn, helps convince them that you are listening to them. Simple.

This well established active listening technique works with adults too and is something that I use at work to make my staff feel more on my level while they finish their morning bows and curtseys. It works best in environments where you can listen without distraction, which further reassures the little (or big) person that you are really listening.

Rewinding slightly… Without distraction? In a house with a two and four year old in residence? Forget it. The only time in the last six months that our littlest little one has been quiet for more than ten consecutive seconds is when the big one suggested playing a game called “pretend your mouth is stuck together with glue” earlier this week. Which reminds me. I’d best hide the glue, just in case.

Communication, or lack of it, between parents and their children is one of the greatest causes of frustration in the first few years. In my experience, communication through their early developmental phases works something like this.

Very Little Children
All we parents have to go on is our child randomly crying, gurgling, trumping and maybe offering an occasional laugh a few months in. While slightly frustrating as you are left guessing what they need, what they need is usually feeding, winding, changing or sleep. That’s a one in four chance of getting it right which seems like reasonable odds. Talking or no talking, it’ll be fine.

Toddler Age
As language skills develop, your little one finally starts to vocalise their wants and needs. Well, tries to. Unfortunately, their attempts are normally misinterpreted by parents who respond with something like “Yes, it is the cat! Clever boy!” when what they should have done is listened more carefully and put Postman Pat on. Coincidentally, this seems to be the point that the tantrums and foot stamping starts, presumably out of sheer frustration at mum and dad randomly saying “cat” all of the time.

Big Boy or Girl Age (or approximately two and three quarter years old, give or take)
Language skills are often finely honed as children approach three. They are long past crawling and it’s your turn to get down on your hands and knees to guarantee listening properly. If it’s good enough for a Prince, then it should be good enough for the rest of us. Except that the “listening” has turned full circle and become a mutually exclusive parental activity, as demonstrated in this “hypothetical” case study.

Tuesday Evening

*Child bouncing on sofa*

“Come and sit by me instead of jumping on the sofa. You’ll hurt yourself if you’re not careful.”

*Child faceplants into floor*

“Did you hurt your head? It’s alright. Come here. Now we’re not going to do any more jumping on the sofa are we? No. Good boy.”

Wednesday Evening

*Child bouncing on sofa*

“Come and sit by me instead of jumping on the sofa. You’ll hurt yourself if you’re not careful.”

*Child faceplants into floor…*
Repeat indefinitely…

So, good in theory but it seems that the top tip may not be quite as tip top as it first appeared. In the absence of any other suggestions of how to address the problem of reciprocal listening (and potty training) I’m off to log into my secret Mumsnet account. I may be some time.

Fin.

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