The most powerful parenting technique

The most powerful-parenting technique Child

The most powerful parenting technique? Listening! Just listen to them.

The second most powerful strategy is getting curious. Is it really that simple, Simon? Yes, but it is one of the hardest skills to master, and master consistently. However, it is the best strategy — and often the first strategy — I empower parents and educators with to help guide and support our divergent kids. It satisfies the kids’ often urgent need to be heard and understood. It provides us with opportunities to get curious and not make a judgment about what to do next or how to solve it. As pointed out in one of my favorite episodes of the television series Ted Lasso, they discuss a quote by Walt Whitman: ‘When you stop getting curious you become judgmental.’ Validation. We all like to be heard. Neurodivergent minds must be heard if they are going to be able to self-regulate and remain calm, alert and open to different ideas and opinions. Simply just hearing your child — actively listening and proving to them they have been heard by summarising and empathising with the situation. It’s not responding to exaggerations. Exaggerations are often just revealing how deeply they feel about the situation; this may be because your body language voice or tone isn’t comprehending the enormity of the situation to their satisfaction.


So the teacher was wrong. Just wrong. So I friggin’ told them they were wrong and then he starts yelling at me. So I stood up and told him why the information was friggin’ wrong, but he sent me out. I wasn’t going anywhere. Everyone was looking at me. I had to show him people couldn’t go home thinking this was right. He just kept pointing — OUT — so I slammed my chair in, kicked a table and slammed the door.


Wow. It is horrible being that upset. I’m sorry you were in that position.

So, first take a breath, count to three — yes slowly — consider your response. Do not respond to the swearing at that moment, respond to what has been told to you. Swearing is just evidence of their unregulated nature.

The most powerful-parenting technique Parent

This statement doesn’t justify their actions does not it condone them. No one wants a rude child, an upset child, but it is how and when we deal with it that makes the difference. In that moment they want to be heard — just heard — not judged or have it fixed. When they are heightened, and they will become heightened as they revisit the situation, they are not in a regulated state to hear solutions or explore ideas. Therefore lecturing them on the values of respect will only escalate the feeling that they have not been heard. Perhaps even that the social injustice of this situation is something you are agreeing with, and maybe not feeling what they are feeling. In that moment if you decide to chastise or judge, you are doing two things which cannot be undone.

First: you are taking away from your relationship with your child, and in future you will be less likely to hear what is happening because you are no longer a safe place or person to allow them to express themselves as an individual. Second: you are sending a message that they are not enough; weren’t respectful enough, calm enough, or are entitled.

The most powerful-parenting technique Listening

Always prioritise connection and relationship over compliance to rules and values in that moment. Boundaries will be set, consequences must be felt — but how and when — that is the key. They do not need to be expressed, enforced or taught then. Wait, pause, revisit when they are regulated. Because you have heard them, it gives you an opportunity to sit beside them with issue in front of both of you, and get curious. It allows you to position yourself with the child and the issue in front of you and you can face it together.

Parent If that happens again, would you handle it differently?

Do you think your reaction changed the teacher’s mind? Could we come up with some better solutions?

I wonder what we could do to help us resolve this situation.

But wait there is more!

By actively listening and being curious you are modelling exactly the behaviour you want your child to demonstrate when they have issues to solve in the future. Those familiar with Dr Ross Green’s work will recognize that Plan B, and modelling it, empowers the child with problem-solving skills. And independently solving problems, changing actions and behaviours is exactly what we want children to work towards.

So when you judge and solve you may, in fact, deny your child an opportunity to be modelled to, or to engage in structured problem-solving. Many parents ask, ‘Am I enabling my child or empowering them?’ Or they ask, ‘When are they just being manipulative or vengeful?’

Using this technique means you no longer have make those stomach-curdling choices because you are separating hearing their concerns and acting on their concerns. There is no reason — well, except the pressure of our modern world to solve it there and then — but because of the urgency of our society we feel pressured, and sometimes in public, shamed into conforming, even when we know it is not in our child’s best interest.

Often when our children pour their hearts out, our own emotions are triggered from our childhood experiences and our personal sense of social justice. Our reactions come from a place of deep love and concern, but our unplanned reactions can unwittingly make things worse. Breathe, but respond with validation: hearing, listening, actively listening with compassion.

The harsh reality is that if you too become emotionally unregulated you are adding fuel to the fire. If you do become unregulated you may not be in the best position to make a calm and informed decision. You may say and do things you regret but which cannot be unfelt by your child. You are modelling the exact opposite of what you want your child to become: a person quick to judge, to accept generalisations rather than considering and generating numerous solutions, and selecting an appropriate and effective way forward.

‘Cause I’m full of such great ideas and info to help them! It’s hard not to say when your child is pouring their heart out.

It is hard but is it worth it. Oh yes! So practise on your colleagues, friends and family; just hear them respond rather than react.

Don’t give up. You may lose you calm, but just be kind to yourself as you would a dear friend, and acknowledge the small step you have taken in the right direction.