The beauty of being a Jr High teacher (yes, I said that) is that the humans that I dealt with daily could formulate sentences. They could be angry or frustrated, or confused and tell me those things. Their emotions were clearly evident but not in charge, and what moved us past the emotion was understanding.
Then, I became Axton’s mom. This little guy was sensitive and his initial response to many things was crying. His feeling of frustration, being misunderstood or overstimulated and so on, they all looked the same, crying. And, while we understood that he was overwhelmed by his emotions and he needed a minute before he could find his words, it typically got everyone on edge and upset. Those little people cries and whines are the perfect pitch to get your attention. Amiright?!
A number of years ago I heard Dr. Jody Carrington say, “connection before direction.” And then she gave a tip to teachers to create connection with students and recommended, “Tell me more.” It worked well in teaching, but it’s had a profound effect on those moments in parenting when I’m at the edge of losing my shit. I check in with myself, take a breath and say, “Tell me more.”
When we say the words “Tell me more,” we open up a conversation. What we’re doing is letting our child know that they are seen and that they are heard. That they are valued and that their words, their thoughts AND their feelings are important. We’re reminding them that their voice matters. More often than not we discover that Axton just needed to let it out – he needed to be seen and heard, but his emotions were in the way. It’s helpful to understand these behaviours or outbursts like an iceberg. The tip of the iceberg is what we see-the screaming, crying, tantrum, eye roll, huffing and puffing. But what is underneath all the noise is a child seeking connection.
Using “Tell me more” is a short precise way to help open up conversation with your child and see what is beneath the surface. It is a strategy to create connection and ensure our children know that they are seen and heard. If we start now just saying, “Tell me more”, then maybe when they are teens they’ll believe us that we want to connect.
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