How to Listen to a Parent Who is Losing It without Losing It

One of the most important skills you need in Children's Ministry is people skills.

Especially when a parent gets upset.  Yes...parents get upset...even at church.  But I didn't have to tell you that, if you're like me, you know by experience.

Occasionally, they can get so upset that they lose it and unleash their fury on you...even to the point of yelling.

But that doesn't mean you have to lose it.  If you're prepared to act, you'll be able to navigate it.  If  not prepared and react, you could end up losing it as well.

Here's some tips on how to listen without losing it.

First and foremost, resist the urge to yell back or raise your voice.  Don't match their decibel level.  Lower yours.

Show them respect even if they are not being respectful.  Chances are, they do have something important they’re trying to tell you – even though they’re not communicating it very well.

Focus on their left eye.  The left eye is connected to the right brain - the emotional brain.

Let them finish. 

Re-frame the conversation.  Say, "I can see you're really frustrated.  To make sure I don't add to that and to make sure I don’t miss something, what is the most important thing I need to do in the long term, what’s the critical thing I need to do in the short term, and what do I need to do ASAP?”

Repeat back to them what they said.  After they respond, say to them, “What you just said is way too important for me to have misunderstood a word, so I’m going to say it back to you to make sure I am on the same page with you.  Here’s what I heard.”  Then repeat back what they said to you.

After you finish, say to them, “Did I get that right and if not, what did I miss?”   Forcing them to listen to what you said they said, “because it was important,” will slow them down and will help you stay centered and in control.

When you respond to someone who is losing it by not losing it, you will earn their respect.