Menu

Instead of trying to 'fix' it for my kids, I'm going to listen instead

Be in that moment with them. Sit with them in that pain, without simply trying to get out of it.

Instead of trying to 'fix' it for my kids, I'm going to listen instead

My almost 3-year-old was running through the living room and tripped. It was a short fall, but I'm sure you know what happened next—so many tears! "Mommy pick me up!"

Then this phrase rang through my head, If you don't make a big deal out of it, they won't either. I'm sure I've heard this before in some form of parenting advice, and it seems logical enough, so I typically utilize it.

My response was, "You're fine, it was just a little fall, sweetie. You can get up."

"I caaaaan't! Pick me up!"

"Sweetie, you can come here, you're okay."

"I can't walk!"

*Inspects legs*

"Look, you're not even hurt, it's okay. Let's go play!"

"My legs are BROKEN!"

This back and forth continued for a long, ridiculous amount of time. Each time, my not-actually-injured daughter declared that her injury was worse and worse, and I attempted to convince her she was fine.

I didn't think much of it at the time, except, Ugh, it's rough to be a toddler. Poor kiddo.

But I had a realization, as I made a specific connection between these types of incidents with my kids and what I hear so often in my professional life from my adolescent therapy clients about interactions between them and their parents.

A few that stand out go something like this:

Kid 1: "These kids at school always pick on me."

Mom: "You just let them get away with it. You need to tell the teacher or tell them to stop. Let's work on being assertive and standing up for yourself."

Me to the kid, later: "Sounds like you have a lot of big feelings inside about these kids at school."

Kid 1: "My mom doesn't understand. She just calls the school. I just want her to understand, I do have a lot of feelings about it."

OR:

Teenager 1 to me: "I can't talk to my mom. I tried to tell her I don't have any friends and she just started telling me 'Yes you do, what about Kelly? You have Sarah and Nicole, they're your friends.' Blah blah blah. She doesn't get it."

Me: "What did you want her to say?"

Teenager 1: "I just wanted her to listen to me. I was trying to tell her I don't feel like my friends are real friends. I wanted to talk about it, but I'm not going to try to talk to her again."

Or:

Teenager 2: "I told my dad I wanted to kill myself, and he just freaked out and took me to the hospital!"

Me: "What did you want him to do?"

Teenager: "I just wanted him to listen to me! He never listens to me, so I thought this would make him finally listen, but he just freaked out instead. I'll never tell him anything again."

All of these kids, including my daughter, are trying to say the same thing: "I want you to listen to me. To understand me. I don't need you to fix me."

All of these parents are well-meaning, loving parents who want the best for their kid. Mom #1 was trying to teach her child to stand up to bullies. Mom #2 was trying to help her teen realize she really did have people who care about her in her life. And dad was simply trying to keep his child alive, in a moment where his heart probably stopped beating upon hearing those words.

All of these reactions are appropriate, but what I've learned is: that should all be step two. Step one should always be: Listen to understand. Be in that moment with them. Sit with them in that pain, without simply trying to get out of it.

After that, by all means, teach kids to stand up for themselves, help them realize who their friends really are, and absolutely take your child to the hospital if they are a danger to themselves. In order to practice for those big things when kids turn into teenagers, we need to follow the same steps when they're 2 and 3 years old as well.

So now I try to really hear and validate my daughter. Sometimes at bedtime she says, "But it's too hard to close my eyes!" and holds her eyes open. If I say, "No it's easy, you just close them!" she tries to prove how hard it is by holding them open more. Instead, I say, "I know, it can feel really hard. And you can do hard things so I know you can do it."

After a little fall, when my brain says, "Seriously kid, that wasn't so bad", I go to her and say something like, "Ah bummer! That must have hurt. Do you want a hug?" or "Dang, that looked like it was scary when you slipped off the couch. How are you feeling?"

Now, I know what some of you might be thinking; "But that's coddling your kid! If you give in to every little boo-boo, they won't know how to deal with things on their own." But guess what happens when I do it this way? We hug and she moves on much faster than if I were to just brush off her feelings. She doesn't feel the need to 'up' it to make me understand just how bad she feels.

When people feel heard and understood, they feel validated. When they feel validated, they are empowered. And when people are empowered, they gain the strength to better handle things on their own, face their own pain, and carry on in the face of that pain. Imagine what we could all do if we felt that empowered?

The tears today about tumbling down that last stair will tomorrow be about mean girls and her first broken heart. And someday those tears will be about the loss of true love or a death that will truly make her world go dark.

So let's hold our children closer and be with them in their pain, so that they feel empowered for the times they'll really need to know that they can keep going through that darkness. And if we're really lucky, they'll know that they'll never be alone , and that our comfort will give them a guiding light.

You might also like:

We're so glad to live in a time when modern baby gear exists. Sure, no one is going to argue that having a baby is easy—but it can be easier with support from some gadgets designed to help your baby and put your mind at ease.

As you build your baby registry, look for products that go the extra mile to make your life a whole lot easier. For example, what's better than a bassinet? A bassinet that can rock by itself. And what's better than a traditional baby monitor? One that allows you to actually take a peek at your baby. Believe us when we say these upgrades can make all the difference.

Here are 10 baby gadgets that will make your life so much easier… relatively speaking, of course!


A bassinet to promote safe + sound sleep

HALO Innovations Bassinest Swivel Sleeper Essenta Series Nautical Net

The safest place for your newborn to sleep is in your room, but not in your bed. Thanks to the swivel function of the Halo Bassinest, you can easily tend to your baby during the night—which means more sleep for you, too. Trust us when we say that is the best gift you can give a new parent.

$239.99

A smart swing for your baby

4moms mamaRoo 4 Bluetooth Enabled High-Tech Baby Swing - Classic

Believe it or not, many babies are born with strong opinions about how they want to be rocked, swung or shushed to calm down. With the mamaRoo's various motions and reclining positions, you'll be able to find a setting your baby loves when you need to free up your hands for a bit.

$219.99

A complete travel system for car + sidewalk

Chicco Bravo Travel System - Indigo

No matter where the day takes you—or what mode of transportation you need to get there—getting a complete travel system for your baby will equip you for anything.

$379.99

A swaddle you don’t have to wrestle

Love To Dream Swaddle UP Original

What do babies and Harry Houdini have in common? A knack for breaking out of tight constraints—which can be a headache when swaddling is the best way to help promote good sleep. Thanks to a breakout-proof swaddle that allows your baby to sleep with their hands up, you don't have to work up a sweat just to get your baby comfortably swaddled.

$29.99

A nursery wherever you need it

Baby Trend Lil Snooze Deluxe II Nursery Center

During the early days of parenting (when you are feeding and changing your baby around the clock), having convenient access to everything you need with a go-anywhere nursery station can save you serious time and energy.

$99.99

A little help for stuffy noses

Fridababy NoseFrida Nasal Aspirator

Up until the point years down the road when your child is able to blow their own nose, the sniffles can be a real struggle—but not with a nasal aspirator that makes it easy for you to get that snot out of their nose.

$15.99

A way to keep an eye on your baby

VTech 5" Digital Video Baby Monitor - VM5251

Trust us when we say you'll sleep better when you know your baby is also sleeping soundly. That's why we're so thankful for modern-day video monitors, which allow you to check in on your sleeping baby without running the risk of waking them up when you sneak in for a peek.

$79.99

A bassinet for hands-free rocking

Simmons Kids Silent Auto Gliding Elite Bassinet - Odyssey

Babies are soothed by rocking motions. But what does that mean for you if you can't rock them throughout the night? With an auto-gliding bassinet, they can comfortably drift off to sleep... and continue snoozing.

$99.99

An easy way to contain diaper smells

Diaper Genie Expressions Pail

Sometimes it's the little conveniences that make a big difference in the quality of your day-to-day life. That's why a great diaper pail should not be undervalued: By containing the smell, you will save yourself dozens upon dozens of trips to the garbage can.

$24.99

A white noise machine that pulls double duty

Hatch Rest Sound Machine, Night Light & Time-to-Rise

A phone-controlled sound machine may be something you never considered until now, but it will be a major lifesaver for years to come, especially as it can also function as a time-to-rise clock that promotes good sleep habits for your child.

$59.99

And as for securing all these awesome products? Well, a Target baby registry is the way to do it. By creating your baby registry with Target, you will also enjoy their Year of Benefits registry program, which includes perks like a welcome kit with more than $100 in savings and samples, two 15% off coupons to complete your registry, and a full year of returns. The benefits are better than ever right now: Target just launched the Year of Exclusive Deals perk as one of its registry benefits, and this includes a year's worth of discounts on baby essentials (think diapers and formula) and comes complementary when you sign up for Target Circle.

Because while parenting may not be "easy," deciding to register with Target definitely is an easy decision. Start your Target baby registry now and enjoy shopping with a Year of Benefits featuring a Year of Exclusive Deals available via Target Circle, two 15% off coupons, a year of hassle-free returns, a free welcome kit and more!

This article was sponsored by Target. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

Our Partners

Every week, we stock the Motherly Shop with innovative and fresh products from brands we feel good about. We want to be certain you don't miss anything, so to keep you in the loop, we're providing a cheat sheet.

So, what's new this week?

Earth Mama: Effective, natural herbal care for mamas and babies

Founded and grown in her own garage in 2002, Earth Mama started as an operation of one, creating salves, tinctures, teas and soaps with homegrown herbs. With a deep desire to bring the healing powers of nature that have been relied on for thousands of years to as many mamas as possible, Melinda Olson's formulas quickly grew into Earth Mama Organics. Since then, the brand has remained committed to manufacturing clean, safe and effective herbal solutions for the entire journey of motherhood, including pregnancy, breastfeeding and baby care, and even the loss of a baby.

Bravado Designs: Soothing sounds for a good night's sleep

With 28 years of serving pregnant and postpartum mamas under their belt, Bravado Designs is a true authority on the needs of changing bodies. It's true that we have them to thank for rescuing us from the uncomfortable and frumpy designs our own moms had to live with. Launched in Canada by two young mamas, they designed the first prototypes with extra leopard print fabric certain that a better bra was possible. Throughout the years they've maintained their commitment to ethical manufacturing while creating long-lasting products that truly work.

The Sill: Instagram-ready potted plants

We've long admired this female-founded brand and the brilliant mind behind it, Eliza Blank. (She even joined Motherly co-founder Liz Tenety on and episode of The Motherly Podcast!) The mission behind the business was simple: To make the process of bringing plants into your home as easy as possible, and as wonderful as the plant themselves. With their in-house, exclusively designed minimalist planters, the end result makes plant parenthood just a few clicks away.

Not sure where to start? Here's what we're adding to our cart:

Keep reading Show less
Shop

The 6 biggest lies I believed before having kids

Just about all of us had set assumptions about raising kids before we became parents ourselves.

Just about all of us had set assumptions about raising kids before we became parents ourselves. Some of these ideas might have been based on our own ideas of how we would absolutely do things differently than everyone else. Others, we believed what everyone else told us would happen would apply to our littles, too. But, that's not always the case, mama.

Below are six of the biggest lies I believed before having kids—and the reality of what actually happened for me.

1. Put your baby down drowsy, but awake

Keep reading Show less
Life