Skip to content

087 – Mom’s Story: How I Connected With My Kids Early in the School Year (And You Can Too)

In this episode, Adam Salgat discusses with Jill Wright of South Carolina how she tries to connect with her kids as the school year begins. Listen to her account of initially having difficulty understanding her son’s decision not to join a school club but eventually slowing down and hearing his real concerns. If Jill’s listening skills had not come to the surface, she might have missed out on something that meant a lot to their relationship.

AI-generated dictation of the podcast audio

Please note that this transcription was completed using AI software.  Occasionally, unanticipated grammatical, syntax, homophones, and other interpretive errors are inadvertently transcribed by the software. Please excuse any errors that have escaped final proofreading.

Adam Salgat 0:03
Do you remember the day you found the passion that fuels your life? Or maybe the first date you had with your partner? Or how about the day your child graduated college, there was love, joy and hopefulness of change. Over the years, many alumni have expressed that the our community listens course is life changing in a similar way. And we know it has been infectious for many, something we know, you can’t just keep to yourself. So take a chance to share that experience with those in your circle by telling them about upcoming classes. Even if they live outside of a regional learning hub, we now offer a virtual OCL course. When we all learn to listen, empathetically, we can be part of a caring community. Visit our website at Chapman or follow the link in the description of this podcast.

Introduction 1:04
Welcome to the listen first podcast brought to you by the Chapman foundation for caring communities. Our vision and mission is to strengthen relationships and build stronger communities through listening, leadership, care and service to create a truly human connection. Learn and partner with us as we imagine a society in which people care about each other. And listen first.

Adam Salgat 1:34
Hello, and welcome to the listen first podcast. My name is Adam Salgat. And with me today is Jill Wright, a facilitator in Charleston, South Carolina. Thank you for joining me, Jill.

Speaker 3 1:45
Great. Hi, Adam, thanks so much for inviting me to talk to you.

Adam Salgat 1:49
Yeah, I’m very thankful that you wanted to, you know, hop on and share a story about you’re communicating with your son, at the start of the school year here. The start of the school year is a very highly emotional and transitional period for parents for for kids. So it’s something that we’ve been thinking a lot about here at the Chapman Foundation. And, you know, bringing real life stories to the teachings and utilizing the teachings is a great way for us to show that everybody is trying their best. And hopefully, people can relate to them. And they can think about how they could potentially do things a little bit different if they’re looking to improve their skill set. Jill, tell me why you were so interested to talk to me about this and paint the picture and fill us in on your family situation.

Speaker 3 2:35
Thanks, Adam. And when you asked me if I would talk to you about this topic, I was very interested in doing it because I had just recently had a great example of how I did not do it well, and then how I, you know, was able to correct it. And still, I think connect with my son, but we have a husband had two boys. And they are ages 11 and 12. So both in middle school,

Adam Salgat 2:59
what listening skills have you used or trying to plan to use as your kids start this school year.

Speaker 3 3:04
So the listening skills in general, even as a facilitator of this work, the listening skills is what is certainly the greatest gift that I’ve been given by Chapman Foundation. And the greatest challenge that I’ve had by it, because it’s such such a rich set of skills, and yet can be so challenging to practice. And I find the most challenging aspects of it is with my children, where it also can have the greatest benefits. So I’m constantly aware of it, or I become aware of it usually in the middle of an interaction. And the ones particularly as they’ve gone back to school and in Charleston, we’ve been in school for a couple of weeks now, the attending behaviors, you right now I’m sitting at my desk talking to you. And so my children usually come in when they get home from school. And although I’m not able to turn off my computer, I pivot, take my hands off of the keyboard and give them my full attention without attending behavior. Or if I’m really good, I get up and go meet them in the kitchen and we have a snack and we kind of go through there. So I’m mindful of the attending behaviors that I am focused on them. And then it doesn’t look like I’m nodding while I’m typing away at my computer that I tried to do that and that I do relatively well. The reflective responses. Another one for me that I use really often giving back the facts and the feelings of what I’m hearing and trying to reflect that back to to my children. And oftentimes, I use that as a door opener so by saying the fact and the feeling they can then elaborate and tell me I’m wrong which my 11 year old often does. No mommy I don’t feel mad. I am mad like so. All right now. Now, I’m really mad. So that reflective response and then one thing and you and I were talking before before we got official here about that logic and emotion and the balance. And what happens when it’s out of balance and the emotion raises rise is really high. And noticing that and my kids, and try my best to recognize, okay, this is not a time for me to try to have a rational conversation with them and tell them things, it’s a time for me to listen. So sometimes the emotion has to get really high before I kick in and think, Oh, that’s right, I need to listen now. And as you said, before we got on air also recognize that in myself, so recognizing I’m starting to get my emotions are getting amped up. And so I am not necessarily communicating in the most the best way right now. So those the attendant behaviors that reflected response, and then that that relationship between logic and emotion, and fighting, the sometimes natural urge to give them the advice, and to sit in the listening space so that they can get it out and not tell them this is what you need to do. You need to get up.

Adam Salgat 6:01
We recently spoke with Mike disparate and a podcast about you know, tips on how to connect with your kids. And what I’m hearing you say is something he said, which was connection before direction, the opportunity to connect with them first, and then think about, okay, what direction might I need to give them? Or what direction do they need? Or, or what can we do together. And then Mickey Gibbs also mentioned the idea of not jumping in to be a problem solver immediately. And that might be that could be a lot of different things, depending on the age of your kid. And she talked about that. So it sounds like you’re keeping that in mind when you’re when you’re speaking with them. Let’s step into your story you mentioned you kind of have a specific story of which where you didn’t feel like you did it great to start, and then you kind of had to course correct. So why don’t you told me that story?

Speaker 3 6:53
Yes. And, and I love that you brought up Mike and Mickey because they both are so wise when it comes to education and children. So I’m really I wrote down connection before direction, because I think that’s fantastic. And Mickey always has great perspective on the parenting aspect, which is so challenging. So yeah, so the story. And it was funny, because as this happened, I was preparing to teach this content. And so I was right in the space, and yet still got it a little not right at the beginning, which I think it’s important for all of us to be reminded of is we’re never going to do this perfectly, we’re going to do it the best we can, we have to try to give ourselves the grace to know that we’re going to mess up. And what I am proud of myself is that I I did acknowledge that I messed up. And I think I was able to still make that connection with my son. So he again is in middle school, and he loves art. And there’s an art club in the middle school. And so I’ve been asking him, you know, when is that starting? I know you wanted to do it last year, and you didn’t get to do it. So I’ve been kind of just nudging him about what the art club and I said so and he said, Yeah, people are signing up now. And I said great, because he has art with the art teacher who’s running the club. And I said, Great. Are you going to? Are you going to join it? And he said, Now I don’t I don’t think I am. And I was like really wide? And he’s like, No, I don’t think I’m going to because it’s, it’s going to be all girls, that’s there’s not going to be any boys that are in it. And I just don’t want to do it. Because there I’m not going to know anybody. And of course, I didn’t agree with that rationale. So a little bit of this is like acceptance versus agreement. I didn’t agree with that rationale, because I was like, You love art. And you will be with people who love art. And if they’re girls, okay, I mean, you meet people, so let’s just meet people. And he just kept insisting No, I don’t want to do it. I you know, I, I know this boy. And this point, I’ve talked to them, and they don’t want to do it. And then I was trying to listen, but I think my emotions were going up. And I was trying to listen and not fix it. So I didn’t say do these things. But I would say things like, you know, if I were you, I would go and talk to the teacher. And he was like, no, if I talk to the teacher, he’s just gonna tell me this. And, and my, you know, rational radar was like, this is just, it makes no sense. Just ask the teacher and if the teacher tells you the things you already know, now we know but the teacher may say, blah, blah, blah, we don’t know you need to talk to the teacher. And so I am despite my best efforts, telling them you need to talk to the teacher is not my thing. But you know, trying to say I’m not interfering, but I am and as I’m doing it, eventually when his voice went up, really, you know, the the intensity of his voice got really big and I could see the tears starting to form in his eyes. And he was saying I just don’t want to do this. I really don’t want to do this. So then when I saw the tears, that was kind of a signal for me that, okay, there’s more going on here, I need to listen, there’s a lot more emotion that’s happening here. And in this space, actually, he was able to kind of tap into his logic because he said, I don’t want to do this, because it’s all going to be girls. And I don’t want to be sitting at a table all by myself, while they’re in another part of the room talking to each other, and nobody’s talking to me. And then he wanted a little bit more. And when I finally sat into that listening space, and and recognize the emotion and what was going on, I heard what he had been trying to tell me for quite a while, which was, I don’t want to feel alone in a room full of people, I don’t want to, I don’t want to be the person that nobody’s talking to, which almost broke my heart. Because I, I then I identified with Yeah, that is a really hard feeling. And as I thought more about it in the days that happened after this, because I am the type of person that will process and analyze later. I do think that he has some AI tendencies that come naturally to him. And the fear of social rejection is a big thing for folks who have that tendency. So he was just avoiding it. I don’t want to be rejected. I don’t want to be by myself in a group, basically. Yep. And so I finally let him just let that out. And I said, okay, and then a few minutes later, I kind of regrouped with him. And we went to another part of the house where his brother wasn’t going to be listening in on the conversation. And I said, buddy, I’m so sorry. I was not listening to you, when you were trying to tell me this. And what when I did listen, what I heard is that you really just don’t want to feel alone when you’re in this group. And if you’re in this club, and all the girls are talking to themselves, you are afraid that you’re going to be by yourself, and you’re going to feel alone. Yeah, I knew that doesn’t feel good. And I’m so sorry that I didn’t get it before. Thank you for making sure that I understood it. And of course, he was like, Yeah, okay. Yeah, that is it. So I was, I was not doing it well, for a while. And doing the parent thing of this makes no sense. Why aren’t you going to do this. And then when I finally did what, what we know to do, and listen and recognize those feelings and try to empathize with him. I understood on a totally different level, what was going on not to mention middle school, at the end, I was able to connect with him, but it was only after a lot of pushing and, and, you know, forcing him to get his emotions higher.

Adam Salgat 12:42
I found like, you really took the time, though, to kind of figure out what was going on. And, and it’s interesting when I hear you tell that story, because I very logically right, I’m thinking the same thing. Well, bunch of girls, so what I mean, you know, like, we’re older, we’ve we’ve, we’ve those gender, like, you know, imbalances, they don’t mean nearly the same as what they kind of do in middle school, especially middle school. Right. But his biggest issue, like you said, was more about that feeling alone. And that was this fear. So it makes me wonder, you know, maybe there’s opportunity for him to get to know people, or maybe there’s opportunity for him to do that. But right now, those don’t outweigh the fear. Right? Not right now. Those the fear is too much to do something that he wants to do. As a parent, what was what was your next step? I mean, you gave him the opportunity to express himself, you now kind of empathize and understood, you continue to let him kind of work through it and make his decision.

Speaker 3 13:48
In this case, I did I mean, I, I let him know that I understood more of what he said. And I, I think this is something that I do and I’m hopefully I don’t feel overinflated in the way that I do it. But I do try to recognize and verbally tell my children when they have expressed their emotion when they’ve helped me understand better by tapping into what they’re feeling. I tried to recognize that and acknowledge that. And so, you know, I really do appreciate the fact that he stuck with it. And he was able to help me understand it, by expressing this is how I feel this is what’s going on. And so I I wanted to make sure that he knew how much I meant that meant to me that he was willing to share that with me. And now I just kind of let it go. Honestly, I’m disappointed because I do think that the art club would be a great thing for him for a variety of very good reasons. We’ve had the conversation multiple times, and it’s not going to change the fact that he has this feeling about what’s going to happen if he goes into the art club and honestly I looked at the year But from last year, and he’s right. There is definitely a gender imbalance in there. And it may not matter. I mean, it, it may not seem like a big deal to me, but it clearly does to him. And, you know, I’m kind of, I’ve just let it go. It’s, I have accepted that, but that’s what’s gonna happen in this situation,

Adam Salgat 15:21
I completely, I completely understand that. And that makes sense. And then when I’m replaying this opportunity, like when you’re at that point, where he’s kind of just saying, well, it’s gonna be all girls. I mean, without the skills in your life, there’s the potential that you might have you or anyone, myself included. So I’m not trying to point fingers, but we may very well have just ended that conversation quickly with Well, that’s, that sounds dumb, or that’s a dumb reason, or I don’t, I don’t get that at all. And that might have been the end of it, right? And you would have maybe not even given them the opportunity to explain what their fear is behind it. And, and then you would have lost that chance for connection. And so that’s the next question here is, you know, have you found a deeper connection with your kids while using the skills? I mean, I think you’ve already said yes to that. But if you want to touch on it a little more.

Speaker 3 16:13
Yes, absolutely. And it is remarkable to me. And that’s, I think, the greatest gift of of going through this class, and still staying connected through all the opportunities that we have, through Chapman Foundation. And as a facilitator, selfishly, that’s part of the thing I love about being a facilitator that keeps me honest, and keeps me practicing, messing up recognizing it in a way that would have been that I just very much appreciate about being connected to the organization in this way. And that ability to connect with my children and model to my children, what I hope they will be will be instilled in them has been just an amazing gift as this and it is the biggest challenge, I have to, you know, I’ve took this class, and 2017. So, you know, five years of doing this, and this was just like a week or two ago, that I still went in, and you know, I’m going to fix this, and I’m going to tell you why you’re wrong. And I’m going to tell you that I’m the wise adult. So you know, I still get it wrong. But I recognize usually, at some point what I’m doing and how I can try to fix it and or correct myself, not fix it correct my behaviors and be more of who I want to be with them. And that connection is absolutely. One of the things that I have found through listening through trying to understand what are the feelings that they’re feeling right now, and having to listen to it through all of the, the imbalance of the that logic and emotion because so often that’s happening, and being able to, to recognize that right now, we may not get to a solution. And I just need to be okay with that, we may get to a point where we can discuss this more rationally and a bit. But right now, I need them to be able to get this emotion out. And so my hope is that I’m raising my husband and I are raising empathetic kids who can, you know, recognize that and other people identify that in themselves. And when the problems get bigger, when the issues are bigger, I’m hoping that we’ve laid the groundwork that they know that they can come and talk to us. Because I that is certainly one of the things that I work towards and scares me the most about being a parent, and what those big problems might be, and being in the dark about them. I have no idea. They’re 11 and 12 right now. But using these skills, I think is one of the best things I can do to try to lay the groundwork for that when they become older teens and young adults.

Adam Salgat 18:58
Well, Joe, I can’t guarantee anything, and I don’t know the future. And I don’t know what’s going to happen even with myself raising kids right now six and young, younger, but kudos to you Virtual High five, because it is not easy, right. And I did something. Speaking recently, like I mentioned with Mickey and Mike and they have older kids in college. They’re both, you know, they both expressed the same thing. They they both said that at the end, we make this sound easy, but it’s not. And the only way to continue to get better at it is to keep trying to keep trying. And that’s exactly what sounds like you’re doing so kudos to you. Thank you. Is there anything you’d like to give our listeners to think about when communicating with their kids? And let’s think specifically here at the start of the year, like I said the start of the year is very transitional, you know, there’s the opportunity to get back into what a routine was, but it takes time to get back into that routine. I mean, you’re packing lunches again, you’re doing a lot things that you really didn’t have to worry about through summer, at least, I’ll say most families, everybody’s situation can be different. But talk a little bit about just any tip or anything that keep in mind for a parent here at the start of school year,

Speaker 3 20:13
I think the biggest tip is kind of what what we’ve been talking about is recognizing that they’re feeling a lot of things, they may be feeling stressed, they may be worried they may be, you know, my kids, kids kids mad that they’re, you know, back in school when they can’t sleep in as late as they’d like to six year olds right

Adam Salgat 20:31
now, right? Yes.

Speaker 3 20:33
Or that they’re their friends aren’t in their classes or their work. I mean, they’ve got so many emotions that are going on. And so sometimes remembering that that piece of the logic and the emotion and being the place where they can vent, and not being compelled in that moment, to tell them all the reasons why that doesn’t make sense, that’s dumb, that’s wrong. And listen to them, reflect it back, if you can, those feelings are really trying to understand where they are, even if we as adults, think that that’s trivial, or we know that that’s not a super big issue to them right now it is, and sometimes just allowing them the space to be mad and yell, and even if it’s yelling at us, letting them do that. And then we can go back to them. And even if we didn’t like the way that they’ve spoke to us, perhaps we do that at another point and say, you know, I’m glad that you expressed all of that to me, I didn’t really appreciate the way the words that you used. But now I understand X y&z And for me, the biggest tip and this is in in speaking to my husband and friends, is you can almost always go back and correct. So even when we get it wrong, even when we’re, we completely mess it up. Most of the times, you can go back and say, You know what I recognize this is what I did. Even with our little kid, you can find the words to say that. And this is what I heard you telling me? Right so that we can model to them that we make mistakes to nobody’s perfect. And that we can go back and that we still want to make that connection. We still want to understand what’s going on with them, they still matter to us. So I think those are the big things that stick out as a result of this conversation, everything that’s going on in your school.

Adam Salgat 22:28
Jill, thank you so much for being open and vulnerable with us to share your story happening in your life. Very thankful that you’re willing to do that, hopefully, you know causes people to reflect on the conversations they’re having with their kids. Great. Thanks so much.