Does your child feel heard?
We’ve all done it.
Your child says “I feel stupid, I can’t do anything right”
Our response is to churn out all the reasons why this is untrue. “Of course you can! Everyone loved the cake you made last week. And what about when you got a A+ for that story you wrote? You are great at swimming, look how quickly you learned to get the breathing right. And …. and ….. and ……”
We are coming from a place of good intentions, and there is a lot to be said for pointing out why what they said isn’t correct. However, by doing so, we aren’t validating what they have actually told us.
“I feel stupid”. This is your child’s reality at that point, and by jumping straight into the reasons why they shouldn’t feel this way we aren’t even acknowledging that they have shared their feeling with us. We could have given exactly the same response if they had simply said, “I can’t do anything right”.
Result … they don’t feel heard!
We are imposing our reality upon them, and ignoring the most important part of what they told us. Even worse, we are effectively telling them are wrong to feel the way they do. But that is how they feel, and if it is wrong … well, there must be something wrong with them surely? Something else they can’t do right.
If you learn to ‘speak Ollie’ then you will automatically know how to answer your child, because Ollie is all about feelings.
In Ollie speak, ‘stupid’ is then a part of them. They themselves aren’t stupid, but their stupid superpower is getting too big. So, we can pull it out and talk to it. Instantly, we are both acknowledging the most important part of what they have just shared, and giving us a way in to explore just why they feel the way they do.
Then we go ahead and question the part about what it is that is bothering them. “So, Stupid, what exactly is it that is making you feel so bad at the moment?”. The child will answer on behalf of the part, and it will possibly be a repeat of what they said initially “I can’t do anything right”.
We continue to talk to Stupid, whilst cupping him/her in our hand, and being gentle with them. Rephrase the “I can’t do anything right” to “aah, Stupid you feel as though you can’t do anything right?”. We have moved the problem onto the part and away from the child. This gives them a different perspective, and something will shift. They will be able to tell you exactly what the part thinks it can’t do, and come up with their own reasons to help the part feel better. That A+ story, and tasty chocolate cake then come from the child rather than you (although obviously you can suggest and prompt).
Your child will feel heard, and empowered to come up with their own help for that small part of them, Stupid. They will be able to use other superpowers to help Stupid feel better; or invent a magic shield to bat away those words that their big brother sometimes says (“you’re so stupid”); or create an “I can do it” magic circle to counteract such feelings in the future.
Learn to speak Ollie, and see how much more your child will open up to you … because you are showing that you are truly hearing them.
Helen Taylor, Ollie Coach
Helen is both an experienced maths teacher and Ollie and his Super Powers coach. She has a special interest in helping both adults and children overcome maths anxiety. With a combination of coaching and maths tuition, children grow in skills and confidence and flourish in the maths classroom. Enhanced exam results are a bonus.
To get in contact with Helen, email Helen.firstname.lastname@example.org