Raising kids is not easy. As parents we want to protect them from making wrong choices. We think we can do that by telling them all about the right choices. This certainly can help but it can also cause our kids to tune us out – especially when we go on and on.
One of the key mistakes we parents make is lecturing to our kids, or, as my child put it to me the other day, “making long speeches.” Sometimes parents forsee that their child is on the wrong path – be it with a choice or a plan of action. We of course want to prevent the choice or change the action because we KNOW there is a better way. So we sit them down and “lecture” to them why their choice or plan is not going to work. But because we are talking at them instead of in dialogue with them, we lose them.
The long speech should really be replaced with a conversation where both the parent and child are actively engaged. It is key for parents to use good communication skills such as asking questions, clarifying the child’s statements, reflecting, even playing out hypotheticals to demonstrate possible outcomes. It is a teaching moment rather than a “force it down your throat” time. Even then, however, you child may make the wrong choice, and if that choice is not earth shattering and is age appropriate, then let their choice play out. Encouraging autonomy and allowing your child to own their actions is so key to them establishing their own identity.
Using good communication skills will draw out the child and make the conversation productive and interesting for them. Additionally, the child will feel respected and valued because you are giving their opinion weight and treating them like a person instead of something to be controlled by you. Establishing respect with a child this way ups the chances of he or she wanting to continue to share with you their potential choices, plans, thoughts and dreams. It sets precedent especially for the more precarious decisions they will be making as they get older.
Parents can get caught up in lecturing kids because they truly believe they are helping them. However, that well intentioned lecture most probably has the opposite effect and is simultaneously turning your child away from you. Lecturing is one-sided and people – and kids are people too! – yearn for and deserve respect and dignity in conversation. Real conversation is dialogue which is anything but a one-sided lecture.