If you keep an open line of communication with your children, they will be more likely to talk to you about their problems when they grow older. They will look for you when they go through difficult experiences in middle school and you will have more influence on them when they grow into teenagers.
Unfortunately, nationwide only 75% of children find it easy to talk to their mom, and 60% find it easy to talk to their dad. So 1 in 4 kids doesn’t open up easily to mom and 1 in 3 struggles being open with dad!
Well, let’s think about it. When you talk about your difficulties with other people, what are some of the least helpful responses that you get? What makes you think: “Oh great! Why did I bring this up with you? That was NOT helpful!”
Award Winning Number 1 LEAST Helpful Response:
Reassurance: “Oh, don’t worry about it, you’re OK.”
Yep, we’ve all heard reassurance before, and it does nothing if you’re on the receiving end of it…
Runner-up Prize for Number 2 LEAST Helpful Response:
Telling me what to do: “Why don’t you just send an email, give her a call”
If fixing it was that easy, I would have already tried it...
Bronze Medal for Number 3 LEAST Helpful Responses:
Taking over the conversation: “ I had that too. When I was young…”
I thought we were talking about me? But I guess we’re back to talking about you now … sigh…
Reassurance, telling us what to do, taking over the conversation, let alone lecturing, moralizing and preaching are all things most of us do not find helpful. Yet this is usually how well-intended parents try to help their kids.
So what to do instead, how do we keep the line of communication open with our children?
- Listen without judgment
Hear your child’s point of view. Telling them what to do differently right of the bat is often perceived as criticism, especially when children feel emotionally upset.
- Check to see if you understand their point of view
Restate in your own words (don’t parrot them nor state the obvious) what you hear them say to make sure that you understand them correctly. This will get you to the underlying problem, which is usually much different from the child’s initial superficial complaint. At the surface they appear mad at their brother, but underneath the anger they may feel left out or unfairly treated. At the surface they may appear sad about losing a game but underneath it may be a fear of disappointing others. At the surface they may seem frustrated with their teacher but underneath they may feel overwhelmed by the amount of school work.
- Guide them to come up with their own solution
We rob children sometimes from their opportunity to become independent problem solvers by jumping in with well intended advice. Encourage independence and creative problem solving by asking them what they think they can do to solve their problem.
- Only give advice when you are “hired” by your child
Only give advice when they are willing to listen to what you have to say. If they are emotionally upset they aren’t ready. If you are not sure confirm it with them: “I have an idea, would you like to hear it?” If they don’t answer that question, it means they don’t want to hear it.
- Leave the responsibility for taking your advice up to them
Make your point only once and then leave them the choice to take your advice or not
Easier said than done? Come and learn the most studied, proven and highly praised parenting program in the world! Parent Effectiveness Training Workshops by 3-time Nobel peace prize nominee Dr. Thomas Gordon. For parents of children in preschool, elementary school, middle school and beyond.
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