One day I picked the boys up from school, ready to share our fun plans for the evening and enjoy the sunshine. As soon as they got in the car and closed the door, one of them burst into uncontrollable tears.
That was a first.
I couldn’t get any words out of them so I pulled over, walked around and tried to comfort him. It wasn’t working. And then I remembered these words from my friend Heather:
Maybe sometimes instead of focusing on our agenda for the way things should go, we just need to be still and ask “What do you need in this moment?” . . . and listen to the answer.
Do your best to use an empathetic tone of voice. Listen to what they say and respond based on THEIR needs (not yours). This is how we create connection with our children and others.
It’s our job to manage our own BIG emotions — it’s their job to communicate what they need (when we give them the safe space to do so). ~
So I tried it.
Even though my desperate need was to find out what happened, I took her advice. I simply said, I’m not sure what happened today, but I’m here and I’d like to help you. What do you need in this moment? He lifted his eyes just enough to make side eye contact. So I gently took his red, tear-streaked face in my hands and said it again. I’m here baby. Tell me what you need from me.
He fell into my arms, buried his face in my chest and cried.
That’s what he needed.
He didn’t need me to fix anything. He didn’t need my sage wisdom. He just needed me to be there. He needed my arms to hold him.
It made me think.
How often do we miss opportunities to connect with our kids, and each other, by giving what we think they need, instead of being curious and patient enough to actually find out?
Think about it. How would it feel for your spouse to ask you that when you’re frustrated or angry instead of asking “What’s wrong?” How would it feel for you kids to ask when you’re in bed with a headache? For your friends to ask when you’ve had a tough day?
I’m guessing pretty darn good.
It feels incredibly loving.
Try it today. When you’re ready with your agenda for a given conversation, take a pause and ask, “What do you need from me?” instead.
I think you’ll be glad you did.
to more love,