Parenting a Century from Today, Part 2

Good listening skills are the most important, and it is no wonder that our creator gave us one mouth and two ears! It is best to turn up our listening sensitivity, especially during our child’s teen years, when it seems most critical.

If we are able to practice a “give and take” to exercise regularly, we will be pleasantly pleased with the respect we see coming back to us. One of the most successful behavioral changes I have noticed is in parents who have begun to use “I messages” when communicating with their kids. I messages, such as “I feel angry when you,” and, “I would prefer you to,” is much more powerful and honest than using the words “YOU NEVER,” or “YOU ALWAYS,” or “YOU, YOU, YOU.”

I messages state how you actually feel about a situation. You can add that it is the “behavior” you don’t like, not the kid. Be specific about the issue. State how you feel (angry, mad, sad, glad, tired, frustrated, anything you feel). Express your perceptions and emotions. Communicate what you want and the reason you want it. “I want to see your homework done by 4 o’clock so it does not conflict with the dinner hour.”

As a family, it is good to have regular meetings to talk about the rules and what is expected. A kid can easily “read minds,” and assume things if it is not spelled out — sometimes literally. There is no way to fail when the rules and consequences are clear, and everyone is on the same page. Allow the other person to tell his or her story when in a conflict. Encourage and listen to the other person. When kids get to be teens, parents often find them to be very secretive and uninvolved with family discussions. Prepare early in life to keep a line of communication open. Sometimes just an open ear, without criticism, is the golden key. Kids will learn early on that they can feel relaxed and safe enough to share even the most intimate issues with their parent. Establish ground rules in the home when problems arise.
These ground rules can be simple. Maintaining I messages, listening without cross talk and clarifying any assumptions, for example. Share and search for solutions to reach an agreement — brainstorm ideas and suggestions for solutions. Check out consequences of each suggested solution or idea. Sign an agreement. Signing agreements that we make as a family will assist in building accountability and integrity. It also strengthens family bonds.

A child who is starting out in life will gain self-confidence when given the opportunity to learn from his or her parents. Learning to resolve conflicts and experiencing the process is a fine learning tool for the future. If conflict cannot be resolved no matter what we do, both parties may choose to “agree to disagree” and move on with a pledge to peaceful co-existence.

Or, a parent can ask for help through family counseling.

Actually, it is not a bad idea. Hundreds of families today seek family counseling as a preventive measure for healthy family living and insight into new parenting skills for today’s kids.

One hundred years from now, regardless of the homes people live in or the cars they drive or the clothes they wear, the world will be a better place because our children were loved.

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