This will be short and sweet. How many times have you heard a parent say, “Are you even listening?”. Getting a kid to listen can be like pulling teeth, but maybe therein lies the problem. “Getting them” to listen implies an effort to change something about them when the solution could be all about you.
One of the issues that ALWAYS comes up with clients and their families is communication. Communication is a monster topic and can get very complex at times, so we will stick to focusing on one area…
Before we take the plunge into this, ask yourself the following questions (whichever are applicable to your situation)
Is communicating with your 13 year old the same as communicating with them when they are 21?
Do you listen with the intent to respond? (be honest)
Are you aware of how your kid responds to your approaches when it comes to talking about particularly tough topics?
Today’s focus, how communication needs to change and evolve as your kid matures, changes and moves through different stages in life.
There may be more to why your child isn’t listening, check out YouTime Coaching’s blog, Why Aren’t You Listening? to see what else may be going on between their ears.
Earlier this week I had a phone call with a client’s parents. He is 25 and trying to be more financially independent but the family is not used to this being the reality. As he makes progress (got a job, paying rent…etc), he still feels as though his parents have no confidence in him. While this individual already struggles with his own self-confidence, the parents won’t get the full finger-pointing here. What they did get is a lesson in how communication needs to evolve as your child evolves as well. What they didn’t realize is that their communication was telling their son, “I have no confidence in your ability to do this.”. This was not at all their intention, actually the opposite. The efforts to improve communication begin.
The concept of evolving communication with your child as they grow up can be quite foreign to parents. With a little effort and thought put into it, things can be much easier while also supporting your child through these changes. Here is some advice for evolving your communication with your child.
First, do some perspective taking from their shoes.
They have a unique perspective. Think about all the possible ways your child could misinterpret your comments. They hear what you’re saying but their inner dialogue filters the message. Everybody has narratives (storylines) for how they believe things work in this world. Usually, narratives come from previous experiences. These narratives are a filter between you and your child and keep in mind, they change. Step into their world for a few moments before engaging in meaningful communication.
Second, promote confidence and self-efficacy.
Parents are frequently one of the main sources of inner-confidence for a child. They learn from you, listen to you, and then their undeveloped brains try to make sense of it all. When you are speaking with your child about their goals or important changes they are experiencing, find ways to communicate your confidence in them. This will empower your child and when a kid feels empowered they are more likely to be more motivated and continue these positive behaviors.
Third, know YOUR shit.
Yes, you are parents, but this does not mean that your reactions, responses, and communication styles aren’t a culmination of your own upbringing. If you expect your child to “dig deeper” than you should be learning more about the origin of your own patterns. Take a closer look at your own shit and baggage, and identify how it may affect communication with your child. Do you get frequently frustrated, yell, or just like to avoid conflict at all costs (don’t worry you are not alone)? Know your own influencers and patterns as an insight to your kids, and be more skillful in your approach to communication with them.