How do parents know what their children are doing when they are not at home? When they are on-line? When they are at a friend’s house? Unless your child trusts you, and confides in you, you may not have a clue. And if you don’t know, you cannot guide them. You cannot effectively educate them. You are out of the game. Frequent, trusting, parent-child conversation is essential. How do you achieve this?
Bruce Robinson, author of Fathering in the Fast Lane, suggests that by the efforts parents make to connect when a child is younger they earn the right to be part of their teenager's life. And how important this can be. We all have a deep need to feel understood, to connect deeply with those we love. Every child needs this one on one time. Every parent has to be good at generating this time weekly. 'Schedule it or it won’t happen'.writes Jonathan Doyle.
If we want to build up effective communication with a child, we need to invest regularly in one on one time. Spontaneity can be just an excuse for laziness.
- Are you a proactive or reactive parent?
- Do you have a habit of having a personal chat weekly with each of your children?
- Do you start when the children are very young, so they are used to sharing everything in their lives?
- Do you share your own experiences in a way that helps them trust you?
- Do you both look forward to these times of sharing?
- Is it scheduled, or can it slip through the cracks in a busy schedule?
Some years ago at Redfield College we surveyed teenagers anonymously about the quality of communication with each parent, and then reported the findings to parents. There was a concerning polarization evident. Some parents and older children enjoyed marvelously open trust. But for others, the line had dropped out. Only some children shared personal details with their parents; some parents seemed to have no idea where to start. To about 13 or 14 years of age, children tended to blame themselves when their parents were angry with them, after that age, they increasingly sat in judgement on their parents' lack of self control. One sixteen year old said that the deepest conversations he had with his father were about football!
• Dad to seven year old Josh: 'Are you winning the war against using bad language to your sister?' 'It's a tie, Dad.' • 'We need to treat every child differently. Each one is very different. Avoid clone recipes for raising children.'(Lisa) • 'You're not looking at him,' Marie points out to Jeff when he talks or listens without giving full attention. • 'Avoid megaphone communication. The best parenting is softly spoken. Underplay your hand.' (John) • 'I talk to my son like a soldier, encouraging him to fight on the inside.' (Ron) • 'Every week I walk or drive one-on-one with each of my children. Every week.' (Raphael) • 'Late night chats with teenagers work well.' (Gav) • 'When you need to talk to an older child about something, Weather the initial reaction, then they settle down and you can talk.' (Greg) • After Paul and Max, his sixteen year old, had a curt exchange over the mess left in the kitchen sink, Max's older sister, Cathy, whispered to her father, 'Dad, there’s an art in deep breathing. Speak softly and you'll win him.'
One on one tips