Listen and Validate

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When was the last time you sat down with your child and listened to what they had to say.  I mean really listen!  In today’s day and age there are so many distractions.  Time seems to slip by in a flash.  We have appointments to go to, chores that need to be done, homework to finish, extra-curricular activities, dinners to make… the list goes on.  Before you know it… you’re exhausted and all you want to do is go to bed.  It’s a sad reality for most of us.  But here’s the challenge I hope all of you who read this will accept and try.  Put the cell phone down, turn the TV off, push dinner back a half-hour and sit down with your child and ask them the following question:  “Am I a good listener?”

Here’s why I want you to ask that question.  I have been to countless schools throughout Central Arkansas doing my best to teach kids about the dangers of bullying.  I’ve been taking my “Step Up, Stop Bullying” program to schools for 5 years now and have addressed more than 80-thousand students.  What I hear most from the kids who claim they are being bullied is that nobody listens to them… no one cares… or no one will do anything.  That breaks my heart.  I’m not saying that’s the case for everyone, but I’ve heard it enough from several different students at various schools to know that this is a problem.  The question is why do they feel that way? 

Tina Meier has a pretty good idea!  She’s far more qualified then I am and knows first hand the damage a bully can do to someone else.  Her daughter, Megan took her own life due to someone bullying her online.  Since that tragic event, she has made it her goal to teach adults, teachers and students across the country how to make their voice heard and what can be done to end bullying.  Her primary message to all of us is simple.  Listen to your kids and then validate what they have to say!  She says, when we don’t do that, they feel as if they’re not important and that we don’t care.  As adults, we need to listen to their every word.  We need to validate how they feel.  And we need to understand how they feel.  Too many times, we tell our kids what to do, what they should not have done, or what we as adults would’ve done.  But what we fail to do… is hear them!  

Meier says we are not validating their behavior or actions… just their feelings.  Think about that.  Who are we to say their feelings are not real or warranted.  Feelings belong to an individual and can be powerful, emotional, and at times destructive.  All the more reason to listen to our young ones… right?  She goes on to say that if we do listen and validate their feelings, not only will they calm down, but so will we.  And once that happens we can then focus on a solution.  It sounds simple and its worth giving it a shot.  Not once of twice… but on a consistent basis until it becomes routine.  And here’s why.

According to Meier, research shows 75 percent of kids do not tell an adult when they’re struggling with an issue.  Bullying easily falls into that category along with a number of other issues.  75 percent!  That’s an alarming number.  It also means kids are afraid to speak up, be honest and share their feelings.  Instead, they bury them, ignore them and avoid them… until its too much to take.  The consequences at that point can be unimaginable.  Just ask Meier and the countless other parents who have lost their loved ones to bullying and suicide.

So before you go to bed tonight… sit down with your child.  Put away the phone, forget about the dishes or your favorite TV show and have a heart to heart with your little one.  And ask them one simple question:  “Am I a good listener?”  Push the conversation further and ask other important questions about school, their friends, social media accounts.  Let them respond and don’t interject.  Just listen… and then validate what they say, what they feel.  Trust me, you’ll be glad you did.    

If you would like my “Step Up, Stop Bullying” program to come to your school just click on this link:

https://www.fox16.com/bullying

For more information on the Megan Meier Foundation:

https://meganmeierfoundation.org/

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