I have a friend I work with who has a little toddler. He came to me the other day, and he said, “You know, my son is driving me absolutely crazy. He whines and whines and I just go up the wall. Sometimes I have to leave the room, ’cause I don’t want to hurt him and I’m going nuts. I just leave him alone when he does that.”
My friend went on and on for a long time about how his son whined and how hard it was on him. I just listened to him. He was really wound up. I listened a long time. I told him what a good father he is, and that I could see how much he really cares about Ronnie and thinks about him. I told him I really respect him as a father. I do. He’s a great dad.
Then, I said, “You know, what I’ve figured out is that when my son whines, he has something to say to me and he can’t quite say it. He’s either got something that he’s hurt or scared about, or he’s going through a developmental stage, and he can’t quite do what he wants to do yet, and it’s bugging him. I found that if I really listen to him, he’ll find a way to tell me what the trouble is.” That’s all I said.
Today my friend came up to me. He was really happy. He said, “You know, you were right! If you listen, they tell you! My son started whining again a few nights ago, and I went over to him and I said, ‘I’m sorry that I haven’t been listening to you. You’ve been trying to tell me something, and I wasn’t listening very well. But now I can. What is it you want to tell me? What’s making you unhappy?’”
I was thinking to myself, “Now, you don’t talk that way to a little toddler, my friend got it all wrong!” but actually, my friend was right. He said, “After I said this I just kept looking at him and he said, ‘Yeah, Daddy,’ and he gave me a good push on the shoulder. I fell down, and we started wrestling. He laughed and we had a great time, wrestling all over the house for, I don’t know, an hour. Then he started running into the room and throwing up his hands, going ‘Ooooh! Daddy scary!’ and laughing and running away, then he’d find his mom and go ‘Ohhh, Mommy scary!’ and laugh and scream and run away from her. We were all over the place. And you know what? We had been having a lot of trouble potty training him, and after that night, he’s been doing it perfectly! He really was working on something!”
–a dad in Redwood City, CA.