Elan Karten

‘I got your back! Lead the way!’

They told me all you needed was to have a child and a degree. We had just had our first son, and I had recently gotten my Masters. After an interview with the staff, they told me I qualified.

I attended the parenting workshops myself, worked through the workbooks like everyone else, brought my wife along for some sessions. I tried to absorb what there was to know. After teaching a model class, and attending supervision sessions with a senior therapist,  it became official. I was a parent trainer. My first group was Wednesday night at a local yeshiva for a group of 13 or so Mothers, all of whom had children older than my own.

This was about 16 years ago. I found the experience humbling and rewarding, as my students ostensibly became my teachers.

One of the principles of the program was active listening our children as a way of letting them assume problem ownership. I call it: “I got your back! Lead the way!” Our children are constantly coming up to us with challenges they are experiencing. It is not always so easy as parents to have the presence of mind to deal with these appropriately. We might yell at them, or somehow try to solve the child’s problem. In active listening, we just repeat what the child is saying and what he is feeling (and try not to sound like a parrot by changing the words a bit.)

Child: “I hate my teacher! She told me that I needed to go the principal since I didn’t have my homework!”

Parent: “That teacher of yours got on your nerves today! It was so embarrassing that she sent you out!”

What is meant to happen but admittedly doesn’t always, is that you’ve opened a path for your child to own the problem. We could have easily said “Next time do your homework so this won’t happen.” Good-bye child! In active listening we say to the child. “I got your back! Lead the way!” One can compare it to putting your metaphorical hands on the back of your child as you support him or her by active listening. The gift of support goes a long way. Not only have you let your children own the problem but you’ve taught them “Hey, it’s cool going up to Mom and Dad when something bugs me.” Score!

About the Author
Hailing from New Rochelle New York, I am a clinical psychologist who made aliya about 11 years ago. I currently work in private practice.