To provide parents with some guidelines for keeping the connection to their children once they become adolescence.
By: Susan Adams, M. Ed.
Summary: The road to adolescence is paved early. It is important to instill the idea early with children that parents are coaches and guides and can act as help agents rather than punishers as children travel the road to adulthood. This article gives parents some ideas for helping to achieve this goal.
Many parents believe that their function, once they have children, is to act as punishers and perfecters of their children. This tends to make children secretive as they grow. Punishing and scolding children teaches them that parents are dangerous and that the path to freedom is to avoid giving the parents information about their lives.
This results in children lacking the guidance to learn to make good decisions because it cuts out the opportunity for the child to ask for advice for fear of being scolded or punished.
If you want your children to talk to you, they must be raised in an atmosphere of calm and continuity. That means that when you hear information that you don’t like, rather than reacting dramatically, you follow with a conversation about the pros and cons of what you are hearing and a discussion of how to make the best choice.
Logical consequences rather than punishment keep you out of the anger of your child. “I wish that you had finished your homework, then you would have time to go to the movies” is an example of logical consequences.
Make sure that you model good listening behavior with your children if you want them to learn it. Listen to them with respect. Make eye-contact with them and give them your full attention.
It is important to answer children’s questions quickly and in an upfront and candid manner.
If you don’/t know the answer-and you don’t always have to know it, let him know that you will find out the answer and get back to him. Then, do so. If you are someone who always has to have the answer or must always be right, you teach that to the child. Or, you teach him that he is never right and you hurt his self-confidence.
Being respectful means that you are mindful of the child’s world. Pick your timing carefully to discuss touchy subjects.
It is very important to allow children to disagree. There may not be an option about compliance, but allowing verbal disagreement is a form of respect. Children feel more respect for parents when their objections are heard. The permission to disagree shows children that we are strong enough be challenged and big enough to back down if necessary.
Don’t use sarcasm or ridicule with children. Humiliating him teaches him to do this with others and is a sign of disrespect. Also, allow children to express negative feelings as well as positive. It is important for the child to know that he can be accepted when he has “bad” feelings as well as good.
Be careful not to label children. Those judgments and labels stick when, in fact, children are always growing and changing. Children, like the rest of us, live up to or down to our expectations. If you send the child negative messages, it will hurt his self-concept and cause him to avoid giving you information for fear of criticism. Raise children with praise.
Be praiseful especially for WHO they are rather than What they do. Admire good intent even if the execution of that good intent is faulty.
Expect that no matter how good a job you do in the years before adolescence, there may still be periods in your adolescence life when he or she refuses adult help. The insecure side of the adolescent wants to feel safe and protected–the adventurous side wants to grow up and do new things. Continue to address your adolescent as a young adult and not a young child. He will grow toward what you expect.
Don’t give up! If you want your child to listen to you, you must continue to be a model for him of that same behavior. And remember, no matter what, to be a team with his other parent. Failure to be a team teaches the child that he doesn’t have to listen and can do as he pleases.