In today’s modern age self-doubt and multiple points of view are major obstacles to effective communication. This is especially true when it comes to parenting and developing children. Parents who are being too strict or authoritarian can prove to be a hurdle for children to express their own self whereas being too lenient or permissive could lead them down the wrong track.
The secret just might be in how you listen to your children rather than how you talk to them. Here are some ways to talk with your children rather than at them. Talking straight with your kids can help parents to overcome perceived difficult issues in a trouble-free manner.
Listening - Put yourself in your child’s shoes and really try to understand what is going on for them. Listen to them as the perfect, whole and complete humans they are rather than trying to fix them which is how it appears to them. Listen to them for the greatness you know they possess.
Focus on their concerns - What is bothering them? Their concerns are valid for their age. Reserve judgment and explaining or focusing on how something appears to be. What you think it may be is not always the case. We need to give our young people the space to be open. Consider their opinion a valuable one. Allow them to contribute how they see it rather than impose how it occurs for you. Find out what their point of view is.
Get in their world - Too many times as parents we are on autopilot operating from our experience, amount of sleep and sense of humor! Remember what it was like when you were their age? Today’s kids seem so sophisticated and far more advanced in knowledge than we were growing up. That does not mean they are more mature. Maturity generally only comes with time and experience. Wisdom comes when we master something. Be where they are and on their level. Don’t try to change or judge their experience. Just offer support and ask them if they want your opinion or advice. Sometimes they just want to vent.
Talk Straight - I don’t mean talk to them like adults. I mean sit down and tell them what’s really going on for you. For example, when you are tired, don’t pretend to listen. If you can’t give them your undivided attention, set up a time that will work for you to be with them. They will learn you are only human and won’t feel so disappointed when they can’t live up to what seems to them as impossible expectations.
Allow your kids to have privacy - This one seems like a right of passage that has to be earned and parents feel they must know what their kids are up to at all times. What if something happens? How will I know if something is going on? I need to be in control of my child at all times we think and worry about how to keep them safe. Your kids need space to be kids alone and with peers. It’s where they learn accountability, self-sufficiency and that you trust them.
Say you’re sorry - Kids are so forgiving and get off of things much faster than we do. Let them see you make mistakes and admit you don’t have all the answers at all times. And that’s OK. You don’t have to be the perfect parent and you don’t have to have perfect children.
Decide what kind of parent do you want to be - the optimum word here is be. Who you are being as a parent will have a direct impact on your parenting style and child. They will model after your behaviors. If you want your kids to learn generosity, it comes from seeing you share. If you want kids to learn honesty, it comes from you being truthful. There’s a beautiful poem by Dorothy Law Nolte “Children Learn What They Live” that encapsulates this perfectly.
What is your stand for your family - What is your commitment? Come from that every day and you can’t go wrong. When you parent and listen from what matters to you most - love, respect, kindness, togetherness - pick one and stick to it.
You’ve got this. All there is every day is to love your children for exactly who they are and watch them thrive and continue to want to impress you and share with you who they are and who they want to be in the world.