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03/10/2010

Wait for the Question

Question At a fabulous personal growth workshop I attended a week or so ago, I learned so many mind-blowing and expansive practices. One of them hit me in my “mama spot” dead-center.

The workshop was led by a life coach named Martha Creek who, in her comforting Southern drawl, guided us through Byron Katie's thought- (and reality-) questioning technique called “The Work.”

Let me tell you, a comforting voice peppered with plenty of “honey's,” is always a plus when you're writing down such things as “When I die, my family and friends will...” or “What is the worst thing that someone could say about me...”

Particularly as a mom, some of these were excruciating questions to focus upon and dismantle my thinking about. And, yes, I did willingly go to this day-long workshop!

What really floored me when it comes to my parenting though, was when Martha advised us to “wait for the question.”

How simple, yet how transformational.


I don't always even recognize it when I jump in and anticipate and perhaps even instigate some request from one of my sons. They aren't babies either.

When I hear my 11-year-old cry out or yell downstairs, if I don't stop myself, I pretty much jump out of my chair to go see what's wrong and how I can help (aka how I can “fix” it).

If one of my guys is struggling to open a jar, my hands are right in there to open it for him.

Especially with my youngest, I catch myself pretty quickly making offers or giving suggestions before he has even asked for anything from me.

Most of the time, he doesn't want or need me to intervene. I am learning this and I stick in my chair more often-- but the impulse is still very much there.

Waiting for the question, according to Martha Creek, is all about pausing before jumping in with an offer to do something for the other person or before sharing advice or an opinion.

This is not just a parenting technique, of course. But I see my habits in this regard so clearly in my day-to-day living with my kids.

I don't always do a very good job of practicing what Martha calls “literal listening.” Just like waiting for the question, it's as simple and literal as it sounds.

You listen to those around you and really hear what they are saying.

When my 15 year old struggles with his spelling, I can choose to literally listen to what he's sharing with me. He may want my help with the writing he's doing. He may want a witness to his frustration. He may want a hug. He may want me to coach him.

But I won't know what he wants unless I stop my thinking and tune in to the actual words that he's saying. I can then ask questions to get a better idea of what's going on for him and I can ask how he would like me to support him.

When I do pause and really listen and then wait for the question/request, it is a phenomenal thing. I feel less stressed about what I think is going on within my sons. There seem to be fewer points of conflict between us.

I also have the opportunity to watch them each become more empowered as they figure it out...often without any help at all from me.
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Amy Phillips-Gary lives in Columbus, Ohio with her two beautiful sons and husband. She is a personal growth coach who writes relationship and self improvement articles for various websites including Personal Growth Planet-- which is where you can also read her weekly blog.

This is an original post for Ohio Moms Blog.

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