It is extremely important that we listen to our children. It validates them. Meaning, listening to them lets them know that what they have to say is important. That they are important as a person.
However, listening to them doesn’t necessarily mean agreeing with them and this usually causes a fair amount of conflict. When I am talking to children and adolescents they frequently tell me that their parents don’t listen to them or understand them. I will always clarify if they mean that literally or they don’t agree with them. This is a very important issue because too many children, teens and adults for that matter believe that if you don’t agree with them you didn’t hear or understand them.
If you disagree with your child, validate them by demonstrating that you understand them. Do this by repeating back what they have said and be open to them correcting your perception.
After validating them it is important to let them know that you agree with them or don’t agree with them. Just don’t expect them to be happy when you don’t agree. However, that’s life. There are no two people that are the same and therefore this sort of conflict is a part of every relationship. These kinds of interactions give them practice at understanding and dealing with disagreements.
Again, it is always important to listen to your child. It is not always necessary to discuss issues whenever they want to. A good example of this is when they are about to get a consequence. This is the kind of situation that leads to endless debates to avoid consequences.
In this situation is important to let your child know that you heard them and will discuss the issue with them, after the consequence.
Here’s how it goes. You have a rule about your child leaving their shoes laying in the middle of the living room. I know this is an absurd example but some of you may be able to relate to it.
You give your child the predetermined consequence of going to their room, with their shoes, for 20 minutes. That’s 20 minutes in their room without the computer, cell phone or anything else that is entertainment. “You get the idea”. Also, according to the consequence, before they come out of their room they will have to tell you how they got themselves in their room and what they will have to do to avoid the consequence in the future.
All clean, neat and wrapped up. Right! “Maybe”. What happens when your child responds with “What about your shoes? Your shoes are always laying next to the front door, because that’s what you do. You take off your shoes every day as soon as you walk in the door and you leave them there?” OMG they have become you!
Well, they may have a good point. However, this is not the time to discuss your shoes. Why? Because most of the time your child could care less about your shoes next to the front door. It is most likely that the reason they’re bringing it up in the first place is to avoid their consequence.
Let’s put all of this together. First, tell them that you’re not going to discuss your shoes at this point. They have to go to their room. However it is very important to let them know that you are open to discussing your shoes or anything else for that matter–after their consequence. This is validating, but don’t be surprised if when they get out of their room they haven’t the slightest interest in discussing your shoes. With that said, it is important to be a good role model and acknowledge your child when they make good points. Like when you’re being a bit hypocritical by leaving your stuff laying all over the house while you are giving them consequences for doing the same thing. Just remember validating your child when they are making sense does make them the parent. Therefore, you tell them that they have a good point and that you will try to do better at being neat. However, they still have the rule and the consequence to live with. Although I know quite a few parents that would be just fine getting sent to their room.