One of the roadblocks to communication is lecturing. The other morning I fell into this trap and lectured to the point that my boy stormed off and was angry at me for a long while.
It started with the distant and urgent cry of "MOM!"
Realizing my peaceful early morning study was soon coming to an end, I looked up just in time to see my third child come storming into my room. His face was flushed and he seemed to be holding back tears.
He held up a cheap disposable tape dispenser and started to tell me the situation.
"Levi took the middle part of this out and won't give it back! And now, when you tip it, the tape falls out and it won't work!"
We made eye contact and I thought about how I had just opened that tape dispenser and given it to them. I also thought about how I had just refilled our nice tape dispenser for them to use too. Would it work to just listen and validate...? I chose to intervene.
"Jack, there is another tape dispenser you can use. I know you are trying to do the right thing, but you don't have to choose to make this a problem when you can just ignore it and let it go..." I wasn't able to go on because immediately I was met with harsh resistance and angry arguing. The banter continued for a couple minutes, then suddenly Jack turned and stormed out of the room and hid himself from me for the next couple hours.
I instantly saw my mistake and felt so awful. Oh, why did I lecture him when I saw how hurt and frustrated he already was.
Looking back I wish I had validated him first- "Jack, it really bothers you that Levi would take the middle off. And now you are feeling angry that he won't listen to you to fix it."
I wish that I had been more accepting, that what he was feeling was real and important to him.
Roadblocks are so tricky and are so ingrained in our parenting that often we don't catch ourselves using them until it is too late. It takes practice to recognize our thought process and to refrain from using them. When we do make a mistake it is important not to see it as a final ending and a permanent failure. Going back over mistakes and thinking through what we could or should have done better is part of the practicing process. As we recognize and admit when we make mistakes we will be better able to prevent them in the future.
Jack and I were able to talk later that day. I was able to apologize for not listening better and he forgave me. Even with my mess-up our relationship got a little stronger as I was willing to admit, change, and commit to doing better.