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How Can Parents Effectively Communicate With Their Kids?
As parents, all you ever want for your kids is the best. You work hard to teach them the essential lessons in life that will help them have a bright future. You want your kids to be safe, learn, grow, and make good decisions. Most of all, you want them to be happy. What you want is universal and noble.
If your kids would listen to you all the time, then you’d be happy because your kids wouldn’t repeat your mistakes and would ward off their own mistakes, right? Wouldn’t that be just heavenly? However, if they listen to you all the time, you will also end up with robot-like kids who think only like you do, take no risks, push no boundaries, invent nothing new, and never learn to assert themselves. Obviously, that’s not what you want. What you really want is a kid who knows when to listen and follow conventional wisdom and when to think for him or herself.
In a previous post How to Communicate Effectively With Your Kids, I shared 5 tools parents can use to communicate more effectively with their kids.
The father in this story used tool #5 to have an effective and productive conversation with his daughter.
Communicate with respect and empathy…
This father is approaching his twelve-year-old daughter, Samantha, about wearing makeup.
First some facts. Samantha is more intelligent than most of her peers and is physically developing faster than other girls her age. While many of her friends have already started wearing makeup, her father believes that using makeup would make Samantha look much older. Samantha’s dad is much older than most of her friends’ fathers and he describes himself as a conservative. He wants to approach this topic in a way that doesn’t cause a power struggle. Most importantly, he wants to make sure his daughter understands his feelings about the issue.
So, one day after school, he asks his daughter if he can speak with her about the issue. Samantha sits on the couch with him and before he has a chance to say anything, she starts with,
“Dad, I’ve tried to understand when you act all overprotective and stuff, won’t let me go to the mall by myself, won’t let me go to sleepovers, and won’t let me wear my favorite skirt to school. I’m not a kid anymore, and I don’t appreciate being treated like one either. I deserve to be trusted. I haven’t done anything wrong, and I don’t understand why I can’t wear a little makeup when my friends are all wearing tons and their parents don’t give ’em any grief. I just don’t think it’s fair!”
Her dad takes a gentle yet firm approach and begins with a smile,
“Samantha, you’re right: you haven’t done anything wrong. You feel I’m not being fair. I am a bit overprotective and traditional at times. I love you very much; you mean the world to me. I’m not punishing you when I say I don’t approve of you wearing makeup. I trust you. I don’t think of you as a kid; I see you as a smart and beautiful young woman.”
So far, all Dad has accomplished is to build some alliance, validate some feelings, and create a listener. Notice he doesn’t follow his statement with a “but”.
“You will wear makeup and I’ll make sure that it’s good quality makeup that’s good for your skin.
Samantha immediately interrupts with a firm “WHEN?”
“I’ve been thinking about it, and I’m willing to discuss how you could start wearing makeup sooner, rather than waiting till you’re fourteen. I’m offering you a chance to earn the privilege in five months, for your thirteenth birthday. Would you like to hear how you may earn the privilege?”
Now the lines of negotiation are open.
Samantha’s dad has a set of conditions. In order for his daughter to earn the privilege of wearing makeup, she must agree to buy makeup only with her father present (for the first year). He must approve of the quality and quantity. He even offers to sign her up for classes in how to apply makeup. He explains that if Samantha abides by these conditions, she’ll show her dad that she can be trusted with such grown-up decisions and behavior.
Initially, Samantha may not be happy with the limitations imposed by her father, but at least she feels heard, respected and hopeful. She also gets her needs met – she’ll get to wear makeup! Her dad successfully managed to remain in charge but share control. Having input over the quality and quantity of Samantha’s makeup is important to him. Through this process, both feel heard, meet their goals, and learn to compromise.
As a parent strategist, Dr. Sherkat has many tools to help you strengthen your parenting skills.
She speaks to various groups…you can hire her for your next parenting workshop, conference or parenting event.