Listen and hold your tongue.
Kids want to be heard. They want to be understood. If we rush in to give our opinion – they aren’t going to feel heard or understood. Bite your tongue – literally if you have to. This simple and obvious skill took me a long time to master. Silence is uncomfortable, but very necessary.
What I have learned is that some kids don’t verbalise their feelings quickly. When I nod and show I am listening – they tend to continue to talk. They continue to tell me more.
Do not give advice – unless it is wanted.
The number one complaint I hear from kids (my own included!) is that they do not want our advice. Well that’s confusing? Your daughter cries to you about her friend drama or your son talks about the mean kids on the bus. You naturally move in with your words of wisdom. It can be very hard to hold back on this one. Try to listen first, let they get it all out without interruption.
Sit with their feelings for a bit. Commiserate about how that must have made them feel. Sentences like, “That must have been so hard” or “That must have made you so angry” will help continue the conversation. Just hold your tongue!
When your child is done venting ask them, “What do you think you’ll do about it?” Hear what they have to say. If you have advice at this point, soften it with something like, “there might be another option. You can…” This will help your child feel like you are working with them and not lecturing them. Try not to jump in with your advice before they are finished talking. Very often if we listen to them, and let them get it all out, they will end up solving the problem themselves.
How you word things can be the small change that makes a big difference.
Do not ask direct questions – instead say something like, “I wonder…” In front of your sentence. For instance:
Your son tells you he is angry at his best friend and he is never going to talk to him again. Instead of saying:
“What did he do to you?”
You might say:
“Oh, you seem so angry. What happened?”
Sounds pretty much the same – I know. But, trust me – it makes a difference. Most kids (not all) are more likely to answer the second question. Especially if you stay silent after making the comment.
Change sentences like:
“What is good about it?” or “What is bad about it?”
“What is the best part about it?” or “What is the worst part about it?”
For some reason – the first sentence can sound judgmental, while the second is acknowledging the feeling and asking for them to tell you more. Just try it out yourself and you will see what works for you.
Every child is different. Every conversation is different.
Every child needs someone they can go to when there are troubled, worried or confused about something. Who will they go to if that person is not you – the internet, their peers? Is this what you want?
NOBODY knows your child as well as you do. Ensure the person they go to is YOU!