By Melissa Ford
Do you remember when you first discovered that your parents didn't know everything? At what age did you realize they were fallible? Did you feel irritated, disappointed, embarrassed, tricked?
Did you slowly tune them out?
From an early age on, kids view their parents as all-knowing, omnipotent beings. We can do no wrong as our children devour our every word as the gospel truth! As our kids race towards adolescence, the pedestal we've parented from begins to slowly wobble and crumble as peers take precedence, adolescents fashion their own perspectives, and parents are seen for what we really are: human not god-like.
After our plummet, the challenge for many is how to climb out, amidst the rubble, with our parenting power and wisdom still intact? In other words, how do we keep the lines of communication open as our children move through adolescence and beyond?
Forgo the pedestal: build a strong foundation of mutual love and respect by listening not lecturing.
For many parents truly listening to their child can be a struggle. Why? Because for years our kids have looked to us for knowledge and guidance, but now they're individuating, developing their own views, many we may not agree with.
Your son makes a derogatory comment about one of his teachers; you lecture him about authority and respect. End of conversation. Your daughter opens up about drugs, sex, and Rock 'n' Roll (or Rap); you criticize and correct her misinformed ideas. End of conversation.
It's time to start listening - in a way you've never listened before.
Next time your child wants to talk, listen with a non-judgmental, loving, and accepting attitude and remain silent. By giving your child some uninterrupted air time, you'll truly hear what she says rather than filtering her comments through a judgmental lens.
Of course, you may hear views you don't subscribe to, but refrain from correcting or providing advice. If you feel the need to share your wisdom, offer it at a later time. Practicing five or ten minutes a day is a great way to begin, shifting your focus from finding flaws in her thinking to admiring her ability to self-reflect, analyze, and problem-solve.
Then you'll notice something that will fill your heart.
Your child will seek you out because she feels heard; you offer a safe haven; you value her ideas. It takes this unique style of listening, invested over time, to forge a relationship built on mutual love and respect, an investment well worth your time.
As I contemplated my own efforts at listening, I asked my college-age daughter when she became aware that I didn't know everything. "I knew it when I had my own ideas as to how things should be done," she responded matter-of-factly.
I smiled gently, reflecting on the times we did not agree.
Turns out agreement isn't important, only her love and respect are.