I’m excited to share our very first guest post with you! Heidi Walker will be coming over to Trillium next month to conduct our April Parent Workshop. I had a great time chatting with her recently and I am sure you will all get a TON out of her presentation! Read more about Heidi at the end of this post.
Sitting on the Rug – Inspiration for Communicating with our Children
Yesterday, I had the pleasure of meeting with Seemi Abdullah, the founder of Trillium Montessori in Cary, NC. As we were finishing our meeting about an upcoming Parent Workshop that I will facilitate on the communication techniques used in Dr. Thomas Gordon’s book, Parent Effectiveness Training, we spoke about the logistic details for the night.
Seemi mentioned that when she hosts parent workshops at Trillium, the parents tend to sit on the floor, on the rug. This was a great insight and on the way home I started to think about simple ways that I would adapt my presenting style to engage more actively with the parents sitting on the rug. I decided that it would be much nicer if I also sit on the floor. I will get a smaller handheld whiteboard versus using the standing one, for example. I could already see and feel the difference that a couple of small tweaks would have on the evening versus me standing at the front, looking down at the parents who would be craning their necks to look up at me.
This then got me thinking about the children. Although the practice of the parents sitting on the rug is a pragmatic one, it is actually a very useful activity for all of us adults to engage in more often than we tend to in our interactions with children. When speaking with children or listening to them we should try to be at their level physically more often than we are. In doing so we will automatically be more present with them in that moment. In Dr. Thomas Gordon’s book he calls this using good attending behavior.
Since I teach a course on parenting communication techniques, I read a lot of articles and blogs about parenting and one of the issues that seems to come up time and time again is “how do I get the kids to listen to me?”. Last night’s interaction with Seemi at Trillium reminded me about how we can all be better at listening to and communicating with our children with a simple change of proximity by using good attending behavior.
This is something I have thought about before and had consciously made an effort to do more of when I first took the Parent Effectiveness Training class a couple of years ago. I had always marveled at how nursery and pre-school teachers spend quite a lot of their time at the kid’s level. On more than one occasion I had commented on how great I thought this was and that their knees must hurt at the end of the day because I knew mine would.
When I took the course and we we got to the chapter that mentions using good attending behavior when communicating with our children I thought about those teachers and realized that I really didn’t get eye-to-eye with my then 3 year old as often as I could. Sure I looked at him when he was talking to me and made lots of eye contact but I didn’t physically kneel down and engage with him as much.
When I started to do this it had an amazing effect. I found that I connected with my son more completely. He listened to what I had to say differently, he seemed to hear me the first time and not the 20th time. When I exhibited good attending behavior when he was sharing something that upset him he seemed more comforted and it was easier to give that hug that was needed.
My meeting with Seemi reminded me that I could still be doing more of this.
Last night after leaving Trillium I went home to make dinner and my two sons started to have an impromptu pillow fight right at the moment that we were ready to sit down. I thought about the attending behavior and instead of continuing to multitask like normal by simultaneously trying to finish setting the table, put the dinner out, while asking them to stop and join us, I did something different. Something I had been forgetting to do.
I used better attending behavior so that my communication would be more effective the first time and we would have a more peaceful start to dinnertime. I went over to them and got to their level. I acknowledged that I could see they were having a lot of fun but that it was time to come over for dinner now and asked them to come to the table with me.
Yep, you guessed it. I only had to ask once! Such a simple change that makes such a powerful difference.
About the Author
Heidi Mulligan Walker is a mother to three children and is the founder of The Difference. As a certified Parent Effectiveness Training Instructor she assists families achieve more peaceful and rewarding family dynamics by sharing the communication techniques pioneered by Dr. Thomas Gordon. Heidi and her family relocated to Cary in 2012 after living abroad in the UK and China for 18 years. She is loving sharing the American experience with her husband and young family. You can register to join a course, take part in a free monthly parenting call, find family reflections and read her blog on her website thedifference.uk.