Unfortunately in many instances, family conflict revolves around finding your voice, or lack thereof. The biggest complaint from kids about parents is they aren't allowed to express themselves, they are either dismissed or ignored. When this issue is brought to the attention of parents, the parent(s) usually has a logical and reasonable explanation. For example, a kid suggests pizza every night for dinner and the parent responds with a “no” without discussion. Many will read this and think what's the problem. The answer is it depends.
If you have a kid that feels heard and validated, then this conversation isn't a problem. If you have a kid that feels ignored or unheard regularly, then this is another example of being dismissed. I'm not suggesting to have pizza night nightly or even every week; the issue here is allowing your kid to speak their mind, to have a say. In this situation, I would suggest for the parents to listen to why it makes sense to have pizza every night, empathize with your kid's excitement at the idea of having pizza nightly, and ultimately explain why this proposal is unrealistic.
Again, many may be thinking why even go through these steps for such a silly proposal. It's less about the proposal and more about having a real, fair conversation with your kid. The more a parent listens to a kid's thoughts and feelings, the more likely the kid is to respect and accept a parent's decision.
I thought it would be helpful to share a few statements that I hear on a regular basis from kids about their parents:
Parents are always right, they are never wrong. This is a big one. What's the point of expressing your feelings to someone who isn't open to another perspective? In these situations, kids distance themselves, the relationship weakens, and kids go elsewhere for care and support.
When it's clear that they are wrong, they never say they are sorry. Apologize when appropriate. I say this all the time to parents and anyone in a mentor role. An apology expresses that you care about the other person and it's perfectly normal to be imperfect.
They don't follow the rules that they make us follow. If your kid makes this type of observation, take a moment and reflect on if they have an accurate impression of what just happened. Even if they don't, ask them why the feel the way that they feel. If they are right, then admit it.
Obviously not all kids feel express these type of parental issues, not even some of the time. However, these are great examples of how kids can feel helpless and unheard. Help your kid find their voice in discussions, it will help with their self-esteem, confidence, and future relationships.
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