After dinner one evening, my two-year-old was playing with her brother’s indominus rex (she likes dinosaurs). She climbed up to her bathroom sink, grabbed her toothbrush, climbed down, plopped herself down on the floor, and…much to my dismay…brushed the dino’s teeth. Of course, she was NOT happy when I interrupted her for a diaper change. “No. Not today,” she said, shaking her head at me. I told her we absolutely needed to change her diaper…now. “No! Not NOW,” she said and glared at me. As I tried to wrestle indominus out of her hands, she wriggled back and forth and, yes, threw a tantrum (she’s INCREDIBLY strong!). In typical mother-knows-best voice (and using her first, middle, and last names) I said, “We need to change your diaper NOW, so your bottom doesn’t get sore!” “NOOOOOOO!!!” she shrieked, “I WANT TO BWUSH DA DINOSAUR’S TEEF! RIGHT NOWWWWWW!” Her face was red and scrunched up. Oh boy. I paused, took a deep breath, and I said as calmly yet cheerfully as I could, “I can see that you really, REALLY want to brush the dinosaur’s teeth.” Pause. “You REALLLLLLY want to brush that dino’s teeth.” Another pause. She stopped wriggling, her face softened, and she looked at me. In a quieter voice I said, “I know you want to brush his teeth. So let’s change your diaper so you can keep brushing the dino’s teeth.” Pause. “O.K., Mama,” she said, as she got up and reached for my hand. We walked into her room to change her diaper.
Although she is just a tot, my daughter, like everyone, wants to feel heard. She and I had competing interests: she needed her diaper changed (my task/interest), and she wanted to play (her task/interest). The diaper change needed to come first. And it did, once she felt like I heard and understood her. People going through a divorce need to be heard, too. It’s easy to get into power struggles and the he said, she said “stuff.” Go ahead and say it. And then be ready to listen to your spouse say it. Really try to hear what your spouse is saying. Then, understand. You don’t have to agree, but to resolve the issues in your divorce, you both need to hear and understand each other.
“Seek first to understand, and then be understood.”
– Stephen Covey
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