1) Remember your kid is a KID! Kids are KIDS! They may show brilliance in one moment, but that does not mean it's time to treat them like little adults (even if that's what they want). Your child has plenty of time and opportunities to ease into adulthood. Let them be kids. A common phrase uttered by parents is, "If I would have known then what I know now, life would've been easier, so I'm trying to save my child the stress." It never fails. Kids don't think like adults, let's not expect them to. Part of the maturation process is to make mistakes.
2) I learned by watching you. You think they aren't listening or watching, but they are. Parents are the child's reference point and source of modeling from an early age. Studies have shown the "do as I say, not as I do" method is woefully ineffective. Makes sense, right? Would you listen to someone who didn't heed their own advice? Be aware of what you say, how you act, and what you do. If you have difficulty managing your emotions, don't be surprised if your child also has difficulty. Model appropriate behavior for your child (and yourself).
3) Be consistent. A major issue for kids is when parents change the rules because "I'm the parent and I say so". Many kids feel confused and consequently have no idea what the parents want. Even worse, they may feel angry and resentful. If you do change the rules, talk with your child so that everyone is on the same page. Give them an opportunity to express their thoughts and feelings. In two-parent households, be sure that both parents are on the same page. The analogy I use for adults is imagine what your work experience would be like if you had two bosses telling you two different things. Not fun.
4) Keep promises. If you promise something to your child, keep the promise. If you can't keep the promise (it will happen--no one is perfect), apologize. Breaking a promise does not have to become a trust issue between the two of you. Acknowledge your child's feelings and come up with a plan for how you can make it up to your child at a later time.
5) Share the power. Kids are dynamic. In one moment you may think they don't need you anymore, and in the next moment they are looking for your love and support. As children mature, they want independence. At the same time, you are the parent and responsible for their well-being. Find balance between being the decision-maker and allowing your child to make some decisions. This balance involves trusting your child. If your child has made good decisions in the past, give them a chance to make another one. This can be scary for some parents, but showing confidence in your child's ability to make the right choice can be a valuable life lesson.
6) Validate feelings. It's never a good idea to dismiss your child's (or anyone's) feelings. Try to understand your child's perspective, even if you don't agree. Express that you acknowledge their feelings. An empathic, validating response may open a meaningful dialogue. In moments of frustration the statement, "You're wrong and i'm right, end of discussion," can shut down the communication. That statement may result in your child submitting to your authority, but it's just as likely your child will find another way around your limits.
7) Manage your feelings. It's hard to have a conversation with a child who is in the middle of meltdown. Same goes for adults. Children bring joy and overwhelming stress. It's a package deal. Reflect on where you are emotionally before engaging your child in conversation. It can make a world of difference. If you are feeling overwhelmed in the moment, let your child know the conversation is not over but you need time to gather your thought, and you both will find a mutually-convenient time to talk. Not only does this give you time to gather your wits, it models a strategy for your child to utilize in overwhelming moments.
As usual, feel free to share this post via facebook, twitter, etc. Comments are welcomed!
If you are interested in being notified of future posts, you can “like” The Family Center of Knoxville facebook group by clicking here. Thanks for your support!