“I hear you”. These three short words convey an enormous amount of respect, and concisely capture the very essence of parenting from the heart.
Long before our children can articulate their feelings in words, we can choose to hear what they are telling us. Our newborn’s cries alert us to the fact they need something from us. “I hear you”, tells them we know they are crying and we are trying to find out why. We can extend the phrase, of course, letting baby know we are working together with them to figure things out, but the part about hearing them is the key. It is the very foundation of a connected relationship.
Hear and listen
We continue to listen to baby as they grow, taking their cue when it is time to leave somewhere.
Near the end of a coffee group, when baby is unsettled we notice their unrest. Being too tired and overestimated to feed or sleep in this setting, we tell them, “you’ve had enough. You want to go. I hear you”.
Uttering the words aloud is soothing for both parties. For the infant, it shows that there are two in this partnership, and that what they feel matters. It reminds you, the parent, that you are taking action and can keep calm.
Do you hear me?
In another scenario, you are out shopping with a contented toddler and so enter just one more shop. The peaceful child erupts in protest and you know you’ve pushed it too far. Your choice is to stay and let your toddler ‘deal with it’, or to heed their cry as a signal to ‘hear’ them and head home.
Some may choose to see this as indulgent, but we choose to view it as treating our child as we would any dignified person who was struggling. How would we treat an adult friend in the same circumstance? Would we drag them around a shop in tears?
Hearing your child is not about their sound reaching your ears, but about interpreting their message and making a kind choice in response.
“I hear you”, is also comforting to an older child as they offload a torrent of emotion or anxiety. We can pay less attention to the actual words used, and hear what the overriding emotion is and what has triggered it. ‘Hearing’ them shows we understand and we can work with them to move forward.
“I love you”, is always nice to hear, but to actually FEEL heard? That is love in action.
“I hear you”, is both a message to the child and a reminder to ourselves to notice their communication. They have so much to tell us, and we have to listen to so much more than words. Dr Seuss said, “a person’s a person, no matter how small”.
We believe that the short, powerful, “I hear you”, honours the personhood in even our smallest children, showing them we are with them, and their voice matters.