Raising your voice doesn’t help, lecturing doesn’t solve the problem, and yet you cannot abdicate your parental responsibility and stop talking to them. So how do you keep speaking into your kids’ lives about important issues, even when it seems they are not hearing a word you say?
I’ve been a parent for almost 27 years and I’ve wasted a lot of words on my kids. Words I assumed they heard; but words they didn’t really listen to. I think I’m getting smarter now–finally!–about the best way to speak into my kids’ lives and perhaps my hindsight will help you keep from wasting too many words yourself.
4 Steps to Speaking into Your Kids
1. Be quick to listen and slow to speak. Most parents have this backwards. They are quick to speak and slow to listen. I’m not saying you shouldn’t speak; I’m saying that you need to be very intentional about listening, rather than getting your own thoughts and opinions across. When your child knows you are truly listening and seeking to understand, then and only then will he really take in your words.
2. Recognize Teachable Moments. Be patient; there will be moments when your child is all ears. Be on the alert for those times when your child is in a listening mood, when he’s vulnerable, when he’s not so full of his own opinions that he has no room for anyone else’s. Those windows of opportunity will come when you least expect it and when they do, be ready to put down what you are doing and seize the moment.
3. Get outside help. Let’s be honest: we’ve all told our kids something and they didn’t heed our words, and then had someone else tell our kids the very same thing and for some reason, the message got through.
When our kids were little, we made a point of inviting other positive adults into their lives–older cousins, aunts, uncles, people from church, parents of their friends, teachers, coaches–who would speak our values into them.
The older your kids get, the more important this becomes. Now that my kids are all in their 20s, I’m more grateful that I can say that they have so many amazing people speaking into their lives.
Parenting is a tough job. We need help; It may not take an entire village, but it certainly helps to have a supportive community.
4. Find other Messengers. Look for other ways to get a message across to your kids—books, movies, music, whatever you find. Seek other messengers who reinforce the values that you are trying to teach their kids.
Silent but Powerful
Speaking into your child’s life doesn’t mean you just use your voice. It means you model your message too. In fact, the silent messages we send to our kids are probably the most powerful.
So as you seek to speak, remember that the loudest message they will hear is who you are.
Janis B. Meredith, sports mom and coach’s wife, writes a sports parenting blog called JBM Thinks and is the author of the Sports Parenting Survival Guide Series. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.