Today’s Family: The language barrier


Do you ever feel like you and your kids are speaking a different language?

I work with teens and young adults who are either entering or exiting college, and their parents. I often find that both parent and child want the same thing — connection. They are just speaking a different language to get it. As a parent myself, I’ve learned that all the wisdom, love and patience in the world doesn’t necessarily mean our children are hearing what we are saying.

Chances are, we are parenting from what our parents did or the total opposite. Neither strategy may be the best. What worked for us growing up may not be appropriate for our children now. And the opposite sometimes suggests that you are not setting boundaries in the areas where you thought your parents were wrong.

The ultimate goal every parent strives for every one of their children is to see them thrive, be independent and safe. You want your children to be happy and successful. What we perceive to be the keys to happiness and success may not necessarily be the best choices and only path to our children’s contribution to the world.

Here is a list of five positive parent strategies that will encourage and inspire the young people in your life to live up to the natural born potential.

  1. Let your child experience risk and make mistakes.

In today’s society, our number one concern has probably become the safety of our children. The older they get, the more time they spend away from us. This is necessary for them to learn to think on their own, to make mistakes they fix on their own and gain the confidence to try new things. If we didn’t fail, we wouldn’t know success.

Kids need to learn from not winning that giving their best effort is what is just as important.

  1. Wait to jump in and rescue

Our natural born tendency as parents is to help — with homework, learning the rules, being their best and eating healthy. And what they learn from that is if I have a problem, an adult will fix it for me. We don’t want to see our children suffer, but it is in that suffering that they learned to navigate the world of hardship. It is in that world, that they learn how to problem solve, think for themselves and gain the satisfaction of success and the feeling of “I can do this.” The real world isn’t made up of people who will jump in and rescue them. Rescuing sets up our kids to be victims, not leaders. It’s important to offer praise for a job well done, and it’s also important to take a step back and let them solve their own problems.

  1. Give recognition where recognition is due.

The self esteem movement that started in the 1980s was designed to make people feel special, appreciated and valued. Low self esteem contributed to poor behavior so it would only make sense that high self esteem would lead to rewardable and acceptable conduct. The movement in some ways backfired and the repercussions of over-rewarding and the “the everyone gets a trophy” mentality is not necessarily setting up our children up for success but only to get a reward. Definitely, catch your children doing good rather than pointing out their faults but also acknowledge them for whom they are being and their efforts and not just what they are doing.

  1. It’s okay to say no or not now.

We can find all kinds of reasons to give into our children. It’s easier than arguing sometimes. We get tired of repeating ourselves and think our kids just don’t listen. Meaning what you say and saying what you mean teaches your child accountability If they know you will give in, and they will keep trying until you do, they lose respect for you. Children won’t tell you they need structure and discipline, but they do. They need to learn there are consequences for poor behavior. Practice what you preach — be consistent.

You are a parent and your job is to parent. Raise your kids to be someone you would want to hang out with when they are adults. That’s the time you can then be friends.

  1. Share stories of your life and mistakes with your kids.

Kids don’t mind hearing how it was for you growing up. It lets them know you get it and that you were actually a kid once, too. We tend to want to communicate with our kids from the lessons we learned and how we think they should do things a certain because that’s how we learned to do it. Tell them how you handled things and let them think for themselves how they could handle it. You can share with them the relevant mistakes you made when you were their age in a way that helps them learn to make good choices. Say to them, “This is how I did it. What would you do?” Recognize what they are dealing with by empathizing with them and telling them, “I’m here to help if you need me.”

You do not need to be the perfect parent or have the perfect child. The best way to instill values in our youth is to be the example you want them to learn. Allow your child to become the people they want to be. In “Children Learn What They Live: Parenting to Inspire Values,” Dorothy Law Nolte said, “If we encourage them to become the people they want to be, we will have the great privilege of glimpsing the world through their eyes. When we allow them to give the gift of themselves, they grow rich in confidence and our world is made richer and fuller.”

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