January 7, 2015

How Listening to your Child can Shift your Perspective.

Visa Kopu/Flickr

I was recently in a store with my daughter Emma, when she looked up and started excitedly pointing at the ceiling.

“Pig, pig!” she exclaimed.

I didn’t see a pig anywhere, but she was insistent and kept repeating herself.

At first, I simply nodded and pretended to know what she was referring to, but it wasn’t until I squatted down to her level that I noticed the pig clock on the wall that she had been so intent on showing me. I was not able to see it due to shelving blocking my sight, but Emma had a clear view from her stroller.

We simply had different perspectives.

Of course there was a pig, I thought to myself. Every time my daughter points something out to me, it is always there. Oftentimes, it just takes some detective work for me to figure out exactly what she is talking about.

My daughter is almost two, and talks a lot. Partnered with her newfound language development is her determination to tell me about everything she observes.

“Puppy! Woof woof woof!” she exclaims when we see a dog on our walk.

“Red Elmo!” she yells when she spots a boy across the playground with an Elmo character on his shoe.

“Tutu class!” she excitedly says when we pull up to her dance class.

I can only imagine the joy that she experiences by being able to explain what she sees in the world, after so many months of not having the words to express herself.

Usually, I know what Emma is saying, but there are many times when she is yelling about something and I have no idea what she is talking about. I have a choice in these moments. Either I can pretend that her words are meaningless toddler babble or I can take her seriously and try to decipher her language.

When I am not sure what she is talking about, I am often tempted to simply nod my head and repeat her words with a smile. I tell myself that it is okay to pretend that I understand her. And truthfully, sometimes it is okay to do this. I don’t always have the time to always figure out exactly what she is saying.

But, when I take the time to really listen to Emma, she astounds me.

I am amazed by both what she observes in this beautiful world and the words that she picks up.

When I take the time to do this—to really listen to my child—I am always gifted with a new perspective. This has been a true lesson of motherhood.

After all, I want to encourage her to continue talking me and to allow her to narrate the world around her. If I only pretend to understand her, then I am not truly listening. She deserves my full attention.

So, when Emma starts blabbing away and I have no clue what she is saying, I slow down and take the time to understand her. I ask her to repeat her words or use different ones. I get down to her level to see if I can spot what she is looking at. Sometimes that’s all it takes. It is easy to forget that she is much smaller than me and quite literally has a different view of the world.

I take the time to remind her that her voice matters. Everything that she sees matters, and the fact that she wants to share it with me means that I should take the time to listen to what she is saying.

By giving my daughter the space for her voice to be heard, I hope she is encouraged to keep talking to me about what she observes. There is nothing quite like the worldview of a child, and Emma’s constant narrative reminds me that our earth is full of beauty and wonder.

All I have to do is listen.


More from this Author: 

Loving Our Bodies: Tips from a 2-Year-Old.

Shifting Parenting from Comparison to Joy.

Why I Cultivate Compassion during my Toddler’s Tantrums.



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Author: Becky Tountas

Editor: Emily Bartran

Photo:  Visa Kopu/Flickr

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