Eye Contact and Psychogeography
Eye contact is valued in our culture, yet some children actually can't hear you when you ask them to "look you in the eye." Psychogeography is a big word for a simple concept. Considering where you are when you speak to your child will have a huge effect on the response you get.
Making Eye Contact
In our culture, making eye contact is viewed as a sign of respect, as listening, as being connected to another. However, considering that our brains developed to support our survival, the brain of the hunters (males) developed to protect it from predators. When confronted eye-to-eye with a predator, the "fight or flight" response triggers deep in the male brain.
Girl babies look at and hold their parent's gaze for a long time. Boy babies, on the other hand, look at their parent's for shorter periods, looking away as if needing a breather. This tends to end the eye contact (and therefore the relating) prematurely. Patience is needed with boy babies, as you help them attune to this way of communicating.
Look at me when I talk to you!
A mom once told me that she had to take her son's cheeks in her hands and guide his face so he would look at her. What she didn't know, yet, was that she was having the opposite effect and was actually triggering a release of cortisol, the "fight or flight" hormone and her son was actually physically unable to look at her OR hear what she was saying.
How Do You Get Him to Listen?
Choosing other ways to communicate will support active listening. Try these:
Side-by-side: Focus on something in front of you, as you sit or stand shoulder to shoulder. Touching, if that is comfortable. Wash dishes together, put a puzzle together, go for a walk.
Hug from behind: If you have permission, a hug from behind works great, you're close but eye contact is eliminated.
Touch: A gentle touch on the hand, sit with shoulders touching or feet!
Less is More: Pause, take a deep breath and before you speak, think about how to say what you need to in the fewest words possible.
Busy Hands: Let him fiddle with something: squeeze a ball, model beeswax, tear paper, draw, or play with Legos.
Physical Movement: He'll be more able to talk if he's had some physical movement first.
Time: Give him time for processing his emotions (1-2 hours) before wanting to talk about it. Make sure he's had physical movement first!
Looking at Eye Contact Differently
Making these slight adjustments will enhance your relationship with your son and with all the men in your life!
A mom told me of her revelation that she and her husband had their best talks while driving in the car! Of course! Hubby had the physical part handled by driving and wasn't required to look at his wife directly, he could relax and talk with ease!
Another Way to Connect with Psychogeography
When you become more aware of where you are standing or sitting when you are talking to another person, you will increase the chances that you are understood when you make adjustments in your psychogeography (where you are in space).See the article below to walk through the steps of this simple psychogeography exercise.
A Big Word for a Simple Concept!
Psychogeography is a simple concept that can have one of the biggest effects on how you communicate and how your children respond to what you say!
Try This Simple Exercise With a Partner
Choose a neutral phrase: "apples, pears, bananas" so attention is on how the words feel, rather than what they mean. Go through each of the following positions, pausing to take a deep belly breath between each one. Then trade positions, so each of you can have the experience.
P = parent, who will be speaking;C = child, who will be listening.
- P faces C about 1 foot apart. Say: "Apples, pears, bananas." Move to next position
- P faces C standing about 10 feet apart (across a room)
- C turns away from P (still 10 feet apart)
- P stands shoulder to shoulder next to C (facing the same direction)
- C squats down (to about 3 feet) while facing P
- P squats down while facing C
What Did You Notice?
A mom commented that when hearing someone speak to her from behind her, she felt jolted, assaulted.
A dad said that when his son was little and didn't talk much, he often got down to his level. As his son began to talk more, he realized that he didn't do that as often. After the exercise, he realized that he still needed to make sure he is at the same level if he wants his son to understand what he's saying.
Think about how many times you: 1) give directions from another room, 2) make requests when your child isn't looking at or isn't close to you, and 3) talk when your back is turned.
Before You Speak
Take an extra moment to consider your psychogeography and then move yourself into a more effective physical relationship with your child. Move next to her, walk upstairs, touch a hand or shoulder, or stand close. You may find that they are listening and they are eager to do what you ask them to do!