“You’re so good with kids.” “How did you just do that?” “Some people are just naturals with children.” “How did you get him to tell you all that stuff?”
When I admit that I am NOT A NATURAL BORN “Kid” Person, many people think I am being too critical of myself. You’ll have to trust me with this one: My natural instincts are for being acutely aware and almost always judgmental. It has taken literally a lifetime of awareness and practice to settle down the “quick to judge” side of me. Being judgmental is very rarely helpful, and almost always a relationship breaker.
With determination to be the best therapist I could be, I worked diligently to find the ways in which to let children and adolescents know that they could find safety and trust with me. To do that, I had to step out of the critical “parent” and into the “listening, observing” me.
So, when I want a child to know that I am a person of safety, I simple look down at what they are wearing and say what I actually see:
“You have red shoe laces.”
And then I wait and give the child time to say or do whatever he wants. It’s amazing what happens after that little line of observation and the respectful waiting period after.
I don’t make the mistake of saying, “I like your red shoe laces.”
Or, “I think your red shoe laces don’t go very well with your orange shoes.”
Or, “Here, let me tie your red shoe laces.”
Nope. “You have red shoe laces” is my secret code for letting children know that I don’t make snap judgments.
This works with almost everyone. Try it out. Practice a little. Let me know how it works for you. And even more, let me know how it works for the child or adolescent or adult that was on the receiving end of YOUR non-judgmental observation.