Sometimes it’s tricky to know how to proceed as a parent in these modern times, and at other times it’s pretty darn obvious what the next step should be. But whether they’re six or sixteen, it’s hard to know how best to communicate with them when the going gets tough.
Sure you can just insist on a face-to-face sit-down discussion, but not only do most guys hate to do that but most kids hate to do that even more. It’s a power thing, just like trying to stare down a wild dingo! 🙂
I’ve written before about how I have learned with my children that the best way to talk with them is for us to be doing something simultaneous, whether it’s playing a game of cards, cutting up vegetables or driving to the store. There’s something about staring at a parent that makes most kids just shut down, and that’s counter-productive if you want to know what’s going on and how to help fix things.
And then there are the situations when your child is upset with you. And that’s a whole ‘nother kettle of those proverbial fish, because you can’t sit them down for that conversation because even the youngest child is going to react negatively if you stare at them and say “now. tell me why you’re upset with me.”
What I have learned as my teens have gained access to cellphones is that not only is it fun to have fun, silly conversations with them via text message, it’s also a terrific way to address more difficult or tense issues.
Recently, for example, my son G- had behaved in a way that I felt was rude and unacceptable and he knew it. He retreated into the behavior and for a few days it just got worse and worse until we finally had the pressure relief of him spending a few days with his Mother at the other house. And just in time!
I was prepared for him to rationalize his behavior as being my fault in that way only teens can manage. You know, the “I crashed the car, but that’s because you were riding me so hard about math homework. If you just accepted I don’t do well in math, I’d never have had the accident!” is a typical bit of teen logic, though not the situation in our house.
Still, I was resigned to things just being tough between us for a few weeks — or perhaps longer — when a few days later I got a very nice, contrite apology from him about how he’d behaved, an apology sent via SMS text message.
And well done indeed. We chatted a bit about it via text messages and I was able to bring up a point that I felt was at the heart of the tension between us, a point that he begrudgingly accepted as worthy of discussion. Many emoticons later, we were ready to try spending time together again, and when he did show up, it was a relief that we were able to talk, joke and continue this bumpy journey of parenting and his path to adulthood.
Had I insisted we sit down and have a face to face? We’d still be stuck in that difficult place. And so, my question to you: How are you changing how you communicate with your children to ensure they’re comfortable with the dialog rather than resentful that they have to sit down before you even open your mouth?