how to talk

# 27 Listen to understand

The hardest part of what I do is to listen. Especially to teenage girls frustrated at their mothers, and mothers at their wits end. We are taught words, and we all want to be heard, but are we just as ready to listen?

I am sometimes a bridge to the generation gap, growing up with strict parents, yet home was always my safe place to fall. It took me until my thirties to really appreciate my Mum. Sometimes we just agree to disagree, but there's no doubt she loves me unconditionally. I see the glass half full, and she's definitely old school.

I'm also careful that I don't lecture parents on how to raise their kids. That's not my place, but I genuinely care about them as people. We all do our best and that all anyone can ask for. I’m not a parent myself, and I don't know how to raise your child better than you. Just remember, it takes a community to raise a child, we're all in this together.

Here are some valuable lessons kids have taught me over the years…

Trust works both ways, and we will make mistakes

It's easy to judge teenagers and hold them account to adult standards, yet we forget how we were like as teenagers. Did we make all the right decisions with limited life experience? How much did we resent the feeling that no matter how much we tried to prove our independence, or being home on time, somewhere along the way we still manage to do stupid shit?

I've learned that if I believed the worst in someone, then sooner or later it will manifest itself to suit that belief. So I teach them how I want to be treated, and I help them to value themselves and others. I tell them straight up that if I can't trust them, I can't train them.

The World already judges them, be a safe place to fall

When people come to me with their problems, I will ask, “Do you want me to listen, or do you want help to resolve it?” Sometimes people just need a safe place to fall, to feel accepted, to be heard. I sit there and listen, cry with them, and give them hope. There's already Uncle Google for advice, just be the friend they need.

As a kid, if you wanted to say something mean to someone, you either had to say it to their face, see them at school, go to their house, ring them up or write them a letter. Dear Jane Doe, you have toe jams. From Me. These days you can't escape it, no wonder kids feel like they're caged in. In one way we encourage them to be individuals, yet they are also pressured to conform. Wouldn’t you be confused?

Anyone can be a critic, so be the rebel, choose to love them instead. The lecture can wait.

What is your measure of success?

There’s a time and place for pushing them to do their best, we all work hard for our money, so I totally get that you want to see where it’s going. What is your measure for success?

I posed this question to one of my dance crews, and their answers were simple and honest.

Me: What do you want to get out of this competition experience?

They all wanted to be more confident, to feel proud of themselves, and to know they gave it everything they had. Nothing about placings, or being better than anyone else, they simply wanted to feel like they could do something that was hard for them, and know they could do it. Isn’t that a good baseline for success? I think so.

Certainly I support all measures of success, because I know how much sacrifice and hard work it takes to get there. Not everyone can take first place, it doesn’t mean you should stop doing what you love.

Ronna Funtelar Thacker is a writer, foodie and dance studio owner.
A self-confessed eternal optimist and lover of crispy M&Ms, she shares her adventures and life learnings to connect, inspire and nurture self-love.