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Teaching parents to listen

By TRAVIS WEIK - tweik@thecouriertimes.com

There was a magic show Thursday at Tri Elementary School. And a guy in a straight jacket in the high school gym.

Later, teachers were led through some role play activities to help teach young people how to solve problems they haven’t even thought about facing yet.

Even later still, South Henry School Corporation parents and grandparents gathered for pizza and a message about how to actually get their kids to talk to them. More specifically, they learned ways to listen to their children.

All these workshops were courtesy of international speaker and author Michael Brandwein.

Brandwein’s day-long visit is part of South Henry’s plan to implement their Lilly Endowment Counseling Initiative grant.

Brandwein catered specific messages to each group of kids. He wanted them to understand that it is okay to talk with their moms and dads and teachers about problems they might be having.

With teens, the message was more about understanding that it is OK to have real human feelings and to talk about those feelings to the adults in their lives.

Brandwein also taught the middle and high school students “tricks” that might get them more privileges at home. The tricks might have included ways to be more respectful and open with their parents.

The father of two opened up the parent meeting Thursday by thanking everyone who came out. Just by being there, they had already shown how much they loved their children, he said.

Brandwein walked the South Henry adults through some pitfalls that many of them may have already encountered while trying to raise their Titan kids.

The biggest problem many parents have when it comes to talking with their kids is that they don’t know how to actually listen, Brandwein said.

Through a mix of comedy and role play, Brandwein tried to show the Tri parents how to be good listeners. His hope is the adults will become good examples their kids will follow to become a new generation of good listeners.

The two most powerful words that a parent can say at home are, “Tell Me,” Brandwein said.

He challenged the parents at Thursday’s meeting to approach their children, be an attentive audience for a few minutes and really listen to what the kids have to say.

Brittany Sloan was one of the parents who attended the final program of the evening Thursday.

“It was very informative,” Sloan said. “It’s more to slow down and listen.”

Sloan said she learned to take a break from trying to solve all the problems at home and let her kids talk through the problems.

She also thanked Tri High for hosting the free program so that parents could learn from Brandwein and take those lessons home.

South Henry School Corporation Superintendent Wes Hammond said Brandwein also engaged the Tri teachers during his professional development program after school.

Hammond hopes the number of parents in the audience will grow if South Henry is able to bring Brandwein back for an encore presentation next year.

“Everything he offered tonight was practical for raising kids and communicating with kids,” Hammond said.