The Heart of the Matter
The key to a boy’s heart and mind is through his stomach, or so I’m learning. A donut (preferably a Bavarian Cream) and a listening ear unlocks all that my eleven year old son is thinking and feeling about life and school. So, we do weekly donut dates. I love to hear him share about things that really matter. Like how he is processing the decisions classmates are making, what he thinks about how students are treating each other at school, and what he believes is the right thing to do in any given situation. Yes, these are things eleven year old boys CAN and, given the right space, WANT to share!
When you are in the midst of parenting or working with students it can be easy to lose sight of the big picture of how kids are really doing and focus on the areas that need improvement. A constant focus on where students need to grow can become a weight and discouragement for them if not balanced with affirmation of areas of life and personal development where they are amazing. If you are unsure of the talents, gifts, or amazingness of the students in your life, it’s time to get curious and take the initiative to figure it out!
Donut dates help me keep things in perspective. I get a 360 degree look at my son. I see where he’s at, where I hope to see him grow, and the time also allows me to see a side of him that he saves for those special donut filled afternoons. I would be missing out on so much of who he is if I didn’t set aside this weekly time. Yes, he loves bugs and bugging his sister, but there is SO much more to him than that. In our times together he shines as a compassionate, thoughtful, generous, creative, and funny kid that has a solid base from which to grow into a man who will love and leads others well. That is some pretty serious amazingness!
Right now, the donut is a door opener to deeper relationship and connection. I can see the opportunity to have me listen deeply to the things that matter most to him, and then taking time to affirm his strategies, thoughts, work, and effort is grounding him and creating a secure space as he is exploring more of his world and deciding who he ultimately wants to be.
Together my son and I have created this sweet (literally) space for him to share things with me. I have made a choice to listen to him, giving him my undivided attention, absorbing the things he wants to share.
Listening is a key skill many believe they possess but unfortunately, few actually do. I’ve defined below listening versus not listening as well as what the different levels of listening are.
- Not Listening. Those moments you are multitasking or distracted from what is taking place around you. Your phone is out, maybe the TV or computer is on, you find yourself talking over the top of someone else, or interrupting.
- Level 1 listening is for the sake of yourself. You are focused on how the conversation applies or doesn’t apply to you. You are forming your answer while someone else is speaking.
- Level 2 listening is for the sake of others. You are focused on each word spoken and how they apply to the person sharing. They have your full, undivided attention and time feels like it ceases to move forward as you are absorbed in what the other person is sharing.
- Level 3 listening is also for the sake of others. You are focused on each word spoken and how they apply to the person sharing, but you are doing so as if you are looking into the conversation rather than in the midst of it. Basically you are using a bird’s eye view perspective in your listening to more fully connect with what the other person is sharing.
What type of listener are you? Level 2 and 3 are the most beneficial for relationship building with the people in your life. If you find you are not listening or are using Level 1 listening in most of your interactions, I would love to challenge you to give Level 2 a try. I think you will find the students in your life (adults, too) opening up in ways you haven’t previously experienced.
Hope you enjoyed learning about the numerous life benefits of donuts!
Thanks for checking out my blog! Levels of Listening is an Academic Life Coaching concept. I am an ICF certified Academic Life Coach and train youth advocates in the Academic Life Coaching 1.0 coach training program. I’m also an adoptive mom, youth advocate, and a licensed therapeutic foster parent. For more information about this program for the student in your life or on how to train as a coach, please contact me here.
I love this! I will now look at donuts totally different!
As a conscious parenting and life coach, listening is a key skill I teach my clients. So often parents are either not listening or are at level 1 – thinking about what they are going to say next – or even about changing the topic to homework, teeth brushing and other routines, and not being fully present with their child.
I might just take my kids out for a donut date tonight – thanks for the inspiration!
Thanks, Nicki! Great example of not listening or using level 1 listening with kids. If you decide to do the donut date tonight, I hope you have a great time listening, connecting and enjoying who your kids are.
I love the way you say to look for amazingness….and yes, the way to a boys heart is through his stomach. My son could clean out the pantry in nothing flat. Now that he is away in college, he cherishes the care packages that contain homemade beef jerky!
I can imagine how meaningful those care packages are! I’m guessing your son sees your amazingness in every one you send. 🙂
You certainly got me thinking again about how to improve my time with the kids. I really need to spend at least one afternoon a week with the kids on their own as they have such differing personalities and are at different stages. Thanks for sharing this 🙂
Thanks for sharing, Melanie. I hope you find just the right thing to do with your kids to connect with them!
I love this. Donuts are a big thing in my family. My husband is donut obsessed, and we can gauge the quality of our weekend upon whether or not a) he got his Friday morning donut at the office and b) if it was his favorite kind – a long bar covered in chocolate and chocolate chips. His groom’s cake for our wedding was a donut tower. Donuts ARE the great connector, especially if you are a kid at heart.
I LOVE your comments and story! Thanks for sharing what donuts mean to your family. Great to know someone else really gets how they are such a fantastic connector. 🙂
I love the use of doughnuts to give your kiddos time to really talk to you. I used to know a couple that did a “doughnuts with dad” Saturday that the entire family really loved. It’s so smart to get your kids involved in telling the details of their lives at early ages. That will certainly pave the way for them to continue doing so in the future.
And now, time to grab a chocolate-glazed. Nom nom.
Donuts..yay! What a great way to get your child to open to you. (Would that be called an ethical bribe? 😉 ) Great points about listening. So many people have no idea what “active listening” entails, and you’ve nailed it. Lots of folks are just waiting for you to take a breath so they can talk about themselves. Well Done!
Loved the different types of listening. At different times I have been experienced each of these styles. I like to think I am primarily in Level 2 though.
And I adore the idea of Donut Dates. A yummy idea that helps us get to share and learn about a loved one
Excellent Idea! I am going to try this with big kid hubby!
Setting aside the fact that your donut picture made me hungry, Brenda, this was a great read. How meaningful to share what seems like a simple snack with your son that turned into time for him to share what’s on his mind and heart. You learned a lot by setting aside this special time to connect with him and really hear him. I’m an only child, so I didn’t have to experience sharing my parents’ attention with anyone else, but it meant a lot when they would take the time to really listen and share with me. Still does. And I still love sharing dessert with them too!
I didn’t have donut dates with my son but 1 year in HS I drove him & we had 30 minutes to talk. He has told me often that was our best time nd he learned people & communication skills from our conversations.
This is great… so often people are hearing people speak and not listening. I know, for me too, that I find myself already answering in my head and not focusing on what folks say… we just have to reel ourselves in and focus on what is being said.
What a great post! Depending on the situation, I am a combination of Not listening, Level #1 and #2. I find that I am a terrible listener when I haven’t spent enough time on self-care. Once my own cup is full, I am a much better listener.