We live in a society of titles: I am a mom, I am a wife, I am a daughter. With a Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education, I studied my way to another title: I am a teacher. Teachers learn to lecture, they correct what is wrong, they fix. This was my mentality in the classroom, and it was my mentality in my home. I had my lesson plans, and my children were simply sitting in my classroom listening to me lecture. When a friend said something mean, I told them how to respond. When they were sad because they did not get picked for the team, I told them how to handle it. When their sibling yelled at them, I explained why it happened. You name it, I tried to fix it.
But my children started to mature and my lecturing, my fixing, and my advice began to fail. My children were getting angry, and I had no idea why. It was during this time that I earned a Master of Arts in Professional Counseling. I had added another title to my repertoire: I am a counselor. Counselors learn to listen, they validate, they have empathy. They build rapport and then they help. This was foreign to me.
I can remember sitting with my supervisor after I had finished a counseling session with one of my clients. I was sure I knew what this child needed, and I was unbelievably frustrated because I could not tell him what to do. My supervisor calmly looked at me and said, “He doesn’t want to be fixed. He wants to be heard.”
And so it was with my children—they did not want to be fixed, they wanted to be heard. I became counselor first and teacher second. When I listened, validated, and empathized, the anger subsided. And then, and only then, I found the space to gently teach.
Today my children are 15, 12 and 9. When they bring difficult feelings home, I try to listen, validate, and then educate. It does not take away all the bumps, but it definitely helps smooth the journey.