Many of you already know my basic communication tips, such as listening more than talking, being empathetic, and talking at the dinner table or at bedtime. Here are some additional tips, many of which are more appropriate for older kids. But it’s never too early to learn them now and start practicing!
You need to know enough; you do not need to know everything.
Parents often feel we need to know absolutely everything that is going on with our kids. But we don’t need every detail. We just need to know enough to feel confident that our kids are safe, doing well, and taking care of their responsibilities. The more we push our kids to reveal every detail, the less they want to share. So stop pushing, focus on the most important issues, and allow your kids to keep some things to themselves.
Use texting (sometimes). They don’t want to hear your voice!
My son, as an older teen, attended one of my parenting talks, and he heard me tell the parents that texting can be an easier way to sometimes connect with your teens. As we drove home, he said “Mom, that was good. But you need to tell parents that teens just don’t want to hear their parent’s voices.” So please take my son’s advice and just text sometimes! A text is short and to the point: “Remember your math book” is more effective (and much less annoying) than a long lecture at breakfast.
Before responding to your child, take the emotion out by pretending your child is your neighbor.
I was raised by a single mom who yelled a lot. And though I promised myself that I would be a different kind of mom, I too yelled when my kids were young. It was a terrible habit, and I was ashamed of myself for acting that way. One way I managed to break the habit, when I began to feel angry with my child, was to take a step back and pretend that my kid was actually someone else’s kid, like a neighbor. Knowing that I would never yell at my neighbor helped me to respond to my child’s behavior in a more calm and appropriate way.
Allow them to have the last word. It does not mean you are giving in.
If your child shouts, “I’m not listening” and storms away to their room, just let them. You both will have the opportunity to calm down, and discuss the issue later. It takes two to argue, so one of you has to stop first. And if it’s your kid, great. Take a deep breath, and wait until later to try again.
Be willing to wait until the next day to talk. Not everything is a crisis.
Your kid comes home late and finds you waiting up? Say “I’m disappointed you broke curfew. We’ll talk about this tomorrow.” You find out at bedtime that a homework assignment was not completed? Say “I’m disappointed to hear that. We’ll talk about this tomorrow.” It’s better to give yourself some time to plan what you want to say, and to calm down so you can talk and listen better.
Watch TV, movies, and videos together.
Lots of teachable moments come while watching together, and gives you an excellent opportunity to say things like “Wow, I’m not sure what I would do in that situation. What would you do?” Or “I think that was an amazing idea. What did you think about it?” Or “I didn’t know that before. Did you?” Asking questions that allow your kid to educate you is a great way to connect with your child, and to learn more about each other. Plus, it’s fun!
Be yourself. Your kid can handle it.
You are a parent, but you are also a person, an individual first. And it’s healthy for your kids to get to know you as YOU, not just as Mom or Dad. It’s okay to sometimes ask “How do I want to handle this?” as a person, not just as a parent. It’s okay to sometimes say “I don’t feel like playing with you right now” as a person, not just a parent. And it’s okay for your children to see that you, as a person, sometimes makes mistakes, or is in a bad mood.
Do not give answers about social activities in front of friends.
When you child asks you for permission to do something, and their friends are close by, walk with your child to a private spot and then discuss. Sometimes your child will ask your permission but secretly hope you will say no. So walk to a quiet spot and ask:
“Are you hoping I say yes or hoping I say no?”
This is a great first response when your kid asks if they can go to a party, a sleepover, or just to go out with friends. Some kids feel pressured to participate in activities when invited by a friend, but might not actually want to attend. So before giving or denying your permission, find out if your kid actually wants to go. If they answer “yes”, then find out the who, what, where, when, how, and then decide. But if they say “no”, then:
Be willing to be the bad guy. Your child can blame you for not being allowed to go out.
If your child does not want to attend a social activity, but is unsure of how to tell their friends, then just be the bad guy. “Tell your friends that I said no”. Gracefully declining an invitation from a friend is difficult even for some adults to do. So until your child learns the skill, be the bad guy.
The main idea behind these ten tips is looking at your child and at yourself as an individual, with equally valuable ideas and feelings. Taking the “parent blinders” off, and just interacting with your kid as you would interact with any person can be a powerful tool in reducing stress, having fewer arguments, and getting along more closely.
Have any questions? Call/text/email me!