Kids say and think a lot of things throughout the day. How life goes for them and the course of their relationships depends heavily on whether or not there’s something there to listen to those thoughts.
I get it. A lot is going on.
Oftentimes, you barely have time to get the lunches together and get them on the bus, let alone listen to everything that’s going on in their lives. Thankfully, the call of a present and practical parent isn’t to listen to every single moment or to pour over every iota of their child’s day.
“Children are not things to be molded but are people to be unfolded.” — Jess Lair
The call is to leverage the time they have with their kids to make them feel seen and heard, and to adapt according to their child’s feedback and experience.
Here are a few things that you might be missing (no judgment, I swear!) throughout the busyness of the day. These might be some things that your child is trying to tell you, but they don’t know how to say it and you haven’t been able to pick up on it yet.
Consider these a shortcut to building a better relationship with your kids. Here they are:
#1: They want to be their own person
I don’t think there’s a worse thing for a child than being constantly compared to someone else. Even if that “someone else” is imaginary, it can be difficult for a child to be constantly compared to some standard that, according to you, they’re not meeting.
Comparison is frustrating and makes them feel like they don’t matter for who they are on their own.
“The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice.“— Penny O’Mara
Oftentimes parents (understandably so) have an idea or an expectation of what their child will be like. They try and pigeonhole that child into that expectation without appreciating them for who they are.
Intentionally celebrating who your child is can be incredibly helpful for their confidence and your relationship.
#2: There are some things they wish you would change
Most kids wish that things were different. They don’t hate you, and they don’t think that you’re a terrible parent — they just wish things happened somewhat differently.
“Kids get feedback all the time; parents should get some, too.” — Mary Halton
Even young kids are often quite skilled at articulating what they wished went differently in their homes. I’ve talked to kids from kindergarten to their senior year of high school, listening to their complaints and the things they wish would change.
Sometimes it’s about their relationship with their parent themselves, other times it’s about rules that don’t make sense to them or things they wish they could do.
Sometimes these things are completely unreasonable, sometimes kids just don’t like how life is going, but other times it seems like these kids might be onto something.
I would implore you, as a parent, to ask your kids how things are going. Do they think that life is fair? Are chores split up reasonably? Do they have any ideas for how things could run more smoothly?
Kids are creative and have big ideas. They also love having responsibility and crave feeling respected. You might find that you can have really good conversations with your kids when you look for their feedback, and show them that you’re human and have some things to learn too.
#3: They listen more than you think
Kids pick up on a lot. They are perpetually picking up on more than you would think, big and small.
Kids want you to see them.
They want you to know that they’re intelligent, perceptive little beings and that they can feel your judgment or your negativity, and pick up quickly on your praise.
“Everyday in a hundred small ways our children ask, “Do you see me? Do you hear me? Do I matter?” Their behaviour often reflects our response.” — L.R. Knost
This goes both ways. If you’re criticizing them or complaining, they hear it and pick up on your negativity. If you are praising them, they are eating that up and craving more.
Don’t slip into the common habit of treating your kids as less dignified humans just because they’re small. They’re smarter and more perceptive than you think — and that’s something you can use as an advantage as you try to improve your relationship with them.
Let me be the first to say if you haven’t heard it today, you’re doing great. If you’re reading articles like this and trying to improve your relationship with your kids, you are killing it as a parent and I’m proud of you.
You are on the path to being the best version of yourself that you can be and are looking to offer that to your children as well. Props to you. I wish you the best of luck.
This post was previously published on medium.com.
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