Friday, January 8, 2010

Mister Rogers Got It Right!

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Annie Fox ( is an advice columnist for tweens, tweens and parents. One of Annie’s blog posts caught my attention.

“Good ol’ Mr. Rogers knew what he was singing about when he was putting on his sneakers: ‘I mean I might just make mistakes if I should have to hurry up and so I like to take my time.’ To Mr. Rogers’ credit, that guy could really focus on one thing at a time,” Annie wrote.

This summer, I began a project that is slowly, but surely changing the pace of my life. My life is picking up speed very quickly. This is a good thing. I am most excited about the project.

But Annie’s words hit me hard. She wrote, “Recently I’m becoming more aware of how cranky, stressed and distracted I get when I try to do a whole lot of stuff at once. So I’m trying to slow down and zero in.”

She added, “But it ain’t easy.” With this, I agree.

Like Annie, I realized that when life speeds up what seems to disappear first is our ability to stop and pay attention to those around us—like our children and significant others.

In my own world, my attention is turning more towards my project and assignments, so it is imperative that I continue to bring myself back to the present moment and what is in front of me.

Annie’s wrote about the need to pay attention to those important people in our lives. From my own observation—based on what is happening in my own life—I felt the message timely.

Annie regularly receives emails from tweens and teens who tell her, “My parents don’t listen.” I know from the feedback I get that many caregivers have much on their plate. But no matter how busy we are, it’s imperative that we keep our relationships with our family members front and foremost in our lives.

Annie advises parents, “We’d all like to improve parent-teen communication but we can’t do our part when we’re busy with six other things or even one other thing.”

I agree with Annie when she says it’s not about dropping everything to listen to your child all hours of the day. It’s more about taking moments to listen—to fully focus on your children and what they are saying.

What it’s not, as Annie says, “is a shift into an unconscious auto-listening thing, ‘Uh huh. Uh huh.’”

Annie offered tips. Click here to read her article. Here’s my personalized version of Annie’s suggestions explaining why full-focused listening can pay off:

1. It’s Respectful. Healthy communication means trust and respect flows both ways. When my daughter’s tone is disrespectful, there are consequences. When I am disrespectful to her (yes, parents do mess up too), I apologize. Sometimes, though, I don’t realize she thinks I am being disrespectful. So, I give Addy permission to tell me (in a respectful way, of course), when she feels disrespected.

2. You Are Giving Them the Message—You Have Something Valuable to Say.

3. You Are Modeling Effective Communication Techniques. Give them eye contact. Ask them to do the same. Give them 100% of your attention. If the timing is bad and you really do need to delay the conversation, explain. Set a time and then follow through with it.

The goal—improved communication with your child. The caveat: Stopping to listen more doesn’t guarantee all problems are solved and complete harmony will be found. But taking time to give full-focused attention will pay off in the long run. For you. Your child. And your long-term relationship.

Allyn Evans
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