As parents, we are constantly looking for ways to improve our relationship with our children, discipline our children and provide proper guidance. How many of us take the time to get to really know our child? Some of us believe that our children are extensions of us and don't have their own thoughts, dreams and goals. When was the last time you sat down with your child to find out what they are thinking? The answers may surprise you. Children, especially during puberty, start to discover and develop their identity. They go through an emotional and psychological identity crisis and question and challenge their parents. At this point, children start to crave support and direction from their parents, but are not always compelled to ask for it. But how can you help your child, if you do not know their needs? Simple, ask them!
You are not a mind reader and your child probably will not voluntarily share his/her personal information with you. When you start to offer unsolicited advice, they feel that you are being intrusive or nosy and get defensive. There are two simple steps to getting to know your child. The first step is to listen more and speak less. Let your child direct the conversation and when they ask for your advice, offer it without being judgmental or critical. Lecturing and berating your child for poor judgment or unhealthy decisions will not help you to understand him/her more because you will not be getting to the core reason for the behavior. If you do not have the proper information, how can you give your child the support that he/she needs? By listening, you will be able to help your child understand how their choices and decisions affect their lives and direct them to making healthier and more responsible decisions. By being an active listener, you learn to acknowledge what your child is feeling and give your child the information and advice that he/she needs.
The second step is to ask the questions that will create meaningful conversation. The typical responses to "How was your day?" are "Good" or "Fine." Ask open ended questions instead of closed ended questions that result in one word responses. Ask specific rather than general questions that will stimulate your child to think. Show your child that you have a genuine interest in what is going on in his/her life. Don't force this process, let it come naturally and soon your child will respond. Ask casually and soon your child will start to volunteer the information. Find out who influences your child. Even ask tough questions such as, "How do you feel about our family?" The point is not to judge your child's s responses, but to know what he/she is thinking or how he/she is feeling. Ask your child if he/she has any resolutions for this year. What was his/her biggest challenge or setback last year? Ask the questions without interrogating. Don't bombard them with questions or you may face resistance. Resolve today to spend a few minutes each day getting to know your child better. This is one of the most valuable gifts you can give to your child.