If I could only speak on one parenting concept, I would choose communication. The importance of this concept can move mountains between us and our children and aid in strengthening our bonds with them.
First, our children have to know that they can talk to us. Therefore, we need to clearly communicate to our children that we are there for them and they can talk to us about anything. An example of how to clearly communicate this to them would be:
“You can come and talk to me about anything, I’m always here for you, and I’m always interested in what you have to say”
In my life coaching sessions with kids, I’ll often ask them whether they’ve shared a certain something with their parents, very common replies are, “My mom’s too busy” or “my dad wouldn’t care” or “I don’t tell them things like this”. Meanwhile the parents are under the assumption that their children are well aware that they can always talk to them. Is there a disconnect somewhere? Yes, but it’s such an easy fix! All we have to do, is bluntly tell them that they can always come and talk to us about anything. If we’ve never told them this, they might not actually know.
It’s important that we talk to our children a lot, throughout the day, everyday. When they come home from school, we should ask them how their day went, what they did, what they liked or didn’t like. This not only makes our children feel important and loved but it shows them that we care about their lives and what happens to them.
When our children come to talk to us, we need to do our part and listen. Not just listen, but really listen! Turn off the television, put down our phone, get off our computer. If possible go to an area of the house where we can focus on that child only (especially if we have more than one child) but away from all distractions. Our children are important and deserve to have our full attention when they come to talk to us. It’s the respectful thing to do.
When we listen to our children, listen to listen, not to respond. Meaning, take in every word they are saying and process that. We need to stop thinking of or preparing our response while our children are still talking. The better we understand their message the better we can respond to them. This is especially helpful with older kids, when they are communicating something to us that makes us want to pull our hair out! If we give ourselves the opportunity to listen to every word, we might hear the underlying cause of what they are saying, or we might actually hear something that makes sense to us, and even better, by allowing ourselves time to process the information before responding, we might come across a lot calmer and perhaps we might not say things we’ll later regret because we spoke too soon.
Keep in mind, if up to this point in life, communication has been in short supply in your household but you want to change that, it might take some time. Kids might need us, parents to initiate most of the talks. It might not come natural to us but it’s never too late to start, especially for the benefit of our children. We need to be patient, because in circumstances like these, however old our child is, is how long they’ve been accustomed, raised, and demonstrated that communication is not a norm within family. Patience and perseverance will be needed in high doses here.
And please, don’t yell. Have you heard, that yelling silences the message you are trying to convey? Well, it certainly does. Especially with our older kids. If you’ve ever yelled at your teen, you know that it’s like they immediately check out (they’re instantly elsewhere in their mind) or they become more defensive on the subject and less willing to continue talking with us… Leaving our message to them, lost, and in turn, making our message invaluable.
So to recap,
- Let our children know they can come to talk to us anytime about anything.
- Converse with our children often.
- Give undivided attention when our children want to talk to us.
- Listen to listen, not to respond.
- Patience and perseverance.
- Do not yell.
Stronger relationships with our children can surface if our children know they can come and talk to us, if they feel respected and heard when they talk to us, and if they feel safe talking to us. Which is wonderful because strong relationships within the family can help children excel in school, be more confident, can allow them to cope with problems better, and can make them very happy. A little kid said to me, “What makes me the happiest is when I’m eating ice cream with my family”. It’s so simple, kids need us and rely on us. Let’s be there and show them how it’s done!
We should always remember that we lead by example. Therefore, when we make communication a huge part of our relationship with our children, (and husband, and friends and family for that matter) we are setting a lifestyle example. Demonstrating that communication matters, is necessary, is healthy, and is normal.
Lastly, I’d like to remind you that I’m not a therapist or doctor. I’m a life coach who works with kids and parents. And therefore have gained what I like to call inside information to a lot of the things that could strengthen the relationship between parents and their children. The parenting concepts I speak to, are the ones that I see trigger most fights, misunderstandings, negative feelings, and the ones who cater to the desires and wishes of our children. With that, Happy Parenting!
Thank you for Reading!
(Listening to: I’m Your Man- Leonard Cohen)