RSS Feed
Oct 28

Listening to Understand

Posted on Monday, October 28, 2013 in Uncategorized

scream-37172-mA year and a half ago I wrote the very popular 9 Consequences Of Not Listening.

This week I’d like to highlight five listening moments.

Listen In

“I can’t stand it!”, she said. An exasperated parent continued, “Don’t you hate it when you are in a nice restaurant and enjoying your meal and suddenly a screaming kid ruins it?” Without waiting for an answer, she continued, “I can’t stand when my mood and my meal is ruined someone’s screaming children.” As her angry exposition continued her face contorted, “This time it was MY son!”

She paused to take a breath, angry settling into sad-frustration, “I didn’t know what to do.”

What’s a parent to do?

A Parent’s Job is to Understand, Not to Fix Things by Jim Fay 1

Listening for understanding is impossible when a child is “drunk” on anger.

Never reason with an angry child.

Instead say, “It sounds like you’re really mad. I want to listen and understand. I will listen when you’re voice is as calm as mine. Come back then.” If you can’t make the child leave, you leave. Be prepared to repeat your calm statement if the child is determined to yell out the anger without leaving. “Don’t worry about it now. We’ll talk when you’re calm.” You may need to say this several times. (italics added)

Be prepared to play “broken record” with, what did I say? Use these phrases instead of reasoning. Reasoning will only fuel the anger.

Live It

I have found these and similar strategies work. Not every time. Not with everyone. Not in every situation, but they work.

– Parents calm children having a tantrum.
– Supervisors calm employees in dispute.
– Friends calm friends threatening others.
– Teachers calm combatants.


I have felt a well-timed prayer (Please, God help me), patient listening and calm replies have worked wonders in otherwise volatile, even violent situation.


1 – I first read Jim Fay’s insights in the book Parenting With Love And Logic by Foster Cline and Jim Fay. This quote can be found on

Bring on the comments

  1. […] Monday was Listening to Understand […]

  2. […] was Listening to Understand Tuesday was Listen […]

Leave a Comment