In Their Own Words: What Your Kids Want You to Know
For me, one of the perks of working in a school is being able to talk with kids and learn about their points of view.
Last week, I asked some high school students, “What do you wish your parents knew about parenting?” Below are their answers (in their own words) and my thoughts on each:
1. “Give kids credit for the things they do well.”
Kids, like everyone else, like to be recognized for what they do well. Instead of focusing on their shortcomings, catch your kids doing something good and verbally take notice or express your appreciation.
2. “Just because I'm the oldest, doesn’t mean I'm responsible for what my younger siblings do.”
Even though your older child “should know better” (how many times have you said that?), it isn't reasonable to expect him to be responsible for anyone else. It's hard enough for him to be responsible for himself! Firstborns tend to feel a lot of pressure from their parents to be the “model” child. Give him a break and hold his younger siblings accountable for their behavior, too.
3. “Parents don’t think that one day we’ll grow up and have our own opinions of them. They expect unconditional love from us even when they majorly mess up.”
When you “majorly mess up” — and you probably will at some point — take responsibility for your actions, apologize, and accept the fact that kids are entitled to their hurt feelings, which can take time to heal. Give them space while continuing to communicate your unconditional love for them.
4. “Strict parents create sneaky kids.”
I love that a teenager said this! Kids know that punishment often breeds rebellion and can foster dishonesty and revenge. When they don't fear their parents' response, they'll be more likely to tell the truth. This doesn't mean that you need to lower your standards or steer clear of enforcing consequences. Kids respond well to logical consequences given with love and respect.
5. “Technology has made everything different. Things aren’t the way they were when you were growing up.”
Every generation of kids thinks their parents “just don't understand.” Things are never the same for kids as when their parents were growing up. Rather than lecturing them about the way things used to be, take the opportunity to see things from their perspective and understand better what their world is like.
6. “Trust your child enough to let him make mistakes.”
When kids feel trusted by their parents, they tend to behave in responsible and honest ways to maintain that trust. And isn't the goal of parenting to raise responsible adults?
I would add, “trust yourself enough to let your child make mistakes.” That's really the trick — believing that you can handle anything your kids do — and that their behavior isn't a reflection of you, but the way you react to it is.
I hope these insights from teens are helpful to read. If you're brave, you might ask your own kids the same question…as long as you just listen with curiosity and don't try to defend yourself when you hear the answer. If you're really brave, you might even leave a comment here and share what they said.
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