As a parent, when you see your child struggling with an issue, you naturally want to help. You jump in with unsolicited advice, offer solutions, make plans of action — anything just to have the angst end. But while your heart may be in the right place, your actions are speaking differently and you need to know what and how to say to your kids.
By taking over, you send the message that you don’t trust your child to make the right decision on their own. And often, what could have been a productive conversation turns into our child shutting down and refusing even to hear what you’re saying.
What to say to kids and how to say it
Knowing what to say — and how to say it — so that your child hears it starts with a few simple strategies:
- Listen to what your child is saying.
- Hold back on the advice.
- Quash the judgment.
- Embrace your child’s resistance.
Listen to what your child is saying (and not saying).
A recent post on ted.com pointed out that listening may be the most important part of the conversation. Why? Because you can’t listen if you’re talking. So, hear what your child is saying. A nod to show you’re listening. You may need to pick up on clues, delve a little deeper, and reflect on what they are telling you for more clarity. And watch for cues: when it looks like your child has stopped listening, stop talking before you enter lecture territory.
Hold back on the advice.
Don’t become that pushy salesperson who follows you around the store. Pushing unsolicited advice will just cause your child to shut down. Often kids just need to vent or reason through things out loud as they figure things out on their own; they don’t want advice. In fact, unsolicited advice just makes a child feel like they are being controlled. Instead, ask if your child wants to hear your ideas to put them back in control.
Quash the judgment.
Our biases are formed throughout our lives and are often subconscious. As parents, our challenge is to try not to let these influence our actions. When our child ventures down a path we disagree with, we judge them based on our own preconceived biases. Remember, your child is not you. But that doesn’t mean they will be any less successful than you.
Embrace your child’s resistance.
Having a child who fights back is actually a good thing. It means they are thinking for themselves and have the gumption to defend their opinion. Build on this to steer your child towards self-reliance and self-trust. Affirm that the decision is theirs to make and that you trust they will make the right one.
Deepen your toolkit with expert advice.
On April 17, 2021, Adele will be joining Leading Edge Seminars to host What to Say to Kids When Nothing Seems to Work: A Workshop for Mental Health Professionals and Parents. Aimed at therapists and parents, this dynamic workshop will cover simple strategies and sample scripts to work from in the heat of the moment.
Listen to Adele Lafrance talk about her upcoming April 17, 2021 online workshop: “What to Say to Kids When Nothing Seems to Work“:
Summing it all up
Recognize that your need to give advice may be based on your own anxiety. By remembering this, you may be able to loosen the reigns a little and change the narrative. Your biggest role as a parent is always to be your child’s safe place. By knowing what and how to say to your child (and what not to say), you’ll help solidify that spot.