Dr. Nancy Doda, a child and developmental psychologist, was in Vanderhoof on Tuesday, Mar. 4 to offer friendly advice to parents.
Doda is a parent herself and she has studied parenting and education and worked as a teacher.
“I framed this talk about children with my own parenting wisdom at heart but also some educational wisdom that I have to share with you,” said Doda. Then she jumped right into a story about her children that showed how there are many different kinds of intelligence. Her son had trouble with reading but he was a great inventor and now he works as a designer.
Doda was a great story teller that night, sharing many personal anecdotes and keeping the parents in the audience listening to her educational presentation.
Doda’s biggest message was showing parents how to actively listen to their child which included lessons like never denying or ignoring a child’s feelings.
“I think we always want to rescue our children soothe, salve or make it right, but sometimes we rescue them in ways that are not healthy for their development,” said Dr. Doda. “The real message about active listening is that it doesn’t matter if it’s a big issue of concern and they’re really upset or if it’s a little issue. How we listen makes all the difference. When they approach the high school years, the pattern we establish with them is going to be very important because that’s when they start to shut down.”
Many of her lessons were taken from child psychologist and educator Haim Ginott who wrote several books on parents and children with messages like how to talk so kids will listen and how to listen so kids will talk.
If you listen to your child and don’t offer them advice or judgement but just listen and nod and say oh and hmm at the right times they will just keep talking and usually they will spill the whole story and solve the problem by themselves by the time they reach the end.
After the child asks for advice or after the story is finished and the child is done talking, begin the advice-giving, problem-solving parental stuff.
One helpful thing parents can do when their child is young and upset is to name the feeling for them. If they describe sadness say ‘wow you sound really sad’ don’t say ‘how does that make you feel?’ say ‘that makes you feel frustrated I guess doesn’t it?’
That way your child in kindergarten might one day come to you and say ‘I am so frustrated’ and it keeps a line of communication open and evolving.
One way to help your child open up would be to take them on a short trip in the car where all sorts of things will find their way to the open from your child’s mind.
Some of the parents spoke up at the meeting and said that they thought “it’s easier to be a fixer, it’s not so easy to just listen.”
Another piece of wisdom Doda told parents was to give children choices whenever it is reasonable and to nurture autonomy in them. Don’t let them choose what they get to drink if it’s a choice between milk and pop but maybe let them choose what colour of cup they want it in.
Besides active listening, humour is also important. That and just spending time together with no advice or judgement in the equation at all will foster healthy communication relationships with your sons and daughters.