Interim report cards for school came out this past week. On our kindergarten-age son’s report card said that he needs improvement on listening in class. Not a big surprise.
It’s been a constant push and pull to get him to listen to instructions and clearly has translated into the classroom setting.
Interestingly, our son can belt out the lyrics for the opening song of Hamilton. He clearly can listen to the song and learn lyrics.
Learning to communicate to my middle son is one of the most challenging things for me as a father. Giving out instructions has resorted to sometimes hollow threats, endless repetition, or fear mongering. I told him once that if he doesn’t take a bath he’ll end up on Dr. Pimple Popper. He hasn’t forgotten it since.
There was a moment this summer when I felt like we understood each other. Late at night at magical Florida theme park, he wanted to the be carried. He was tired from a days worth of walking. My back and shoulders were also aching from the day. To avoid a meltdown while queuing for the last ride of the day, I carried him. As we moved through the line, my back and shoulders were screaming at me. I asked my son to walk and he refused. His feet were tired he said.
I paused and tried to figure out a way to explain to him that I needed a break.
I started by saying, I know your feet are tired. They are angry right and they don’t want to walk. He said, ‘yes daddy, my feet are angry!’ I said to him that daddy’s back is also angry from carrying you. So if it’s ok, can you give my back a break so it won’t be angry anymore?
I wasn’t expecting that he would respond to this approach. He then said to me, ‘ok daddy, my feet aren’t so angry anymore. I will walk for a little bit.’
I was so happy he understood, listened, and exhibited empathy.
He does listen. I notice that he repeats random things I’ve said in the past. Whether it was an opinion about something, an anecdote, or something I said that we were going to do.
How am I setting my boundaries and how am I communicating it is probably the bigger question?
At the end of of the day, my son does listen.