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Do the conversations between your child and you generally lead to a heated discussion? Steven Rudolph, in this excerpt from his bestselling book, Solving the Ice-Cream Dilemma, shares his strategies to achieve effective communication between you and your child.
Nowadays, when parents want do discuss their child's poor grades or his professed decision to become a rock star, mothers and fathers don't always have the liberty of bringing up the topic and discussing it at will. Children today are often more guarded with respect to their willingness to talk with their parents about their life plans. They resist the stereotypical parental lecture, deeming their pearls of wisdom to be threats to their sovereignty.
So sensitive are they that even the smallest, most innocuous bit of advice spoken with love and with the best of intention is considered a heavy-handed affront. If you find yourself struggling to exchange more than a sentence or find yourself struggling to exchange more than a sentence or two with him before his defenses go up, the following sections will provide you with some suggestions about how you can establish a stronger rapport with your child.
One of the reasons why children discard parental advice is because they have developed a belief that their parents are not “cool.” They see their mother and father as coming from a bygone era that has little connection to modern times. Your ability to stay relevant to your child depends on your ability to familiar with modernity—not just your modernity—rather, his modernity: knowing the latest fashions, TV shows, music groups, technologies and so on. You don't need to dress or talk like him, but your willingness to understand his reality and speak in his terms will signal that you are not outdated.
Many kids come home from school to an empty house because both their parents work and they often don't see them until late evening. Since a greater number of parents are working and spend increasing amounts of time away from home, children are often left to fend for themselves outside of school. One of the ways you can increase the facility of dialogue with your child is, simply by being around more and doing more things with each other. You can do so by coming home earlier from work, eating meals, surfing the net or playing games together. By increasing the time spent together, you not only strengthen your relationship and rapport with your child, you also increase the opportunities to talk about the topics you wish to address.
There are better times than others to initiate a discussion with your child about his future. Parents often feel it is best to broach a concern whenever it is weighing most heavily on them. Unfortunately, that moment might occur at a very inopportune time for your child—just as he has come from school, when he is watching his favorite TV show or when he is talking to his friend on the phone. Before launching directly into heavy deliberations, take a moment to check if the mood is right. If possible, give your child advance notice about your desire to talk; it can make a huge difference in his attitude.
Children listen to lectures all day long in class. The last thing they want is to come home and get another lecture when they enter the front door. One of the best ways you can earn your child's trust is by listening to him. Listen to him emphatically—with full focus and concentration, understanding the intricacies of what your child is talking about and how he feels about the topic.
However, be careful of not giving in to pressure tactics. Children in their teens are at a very impressionable stage and their perceptions are significantly molded by their friends' opinions. Children commonly compare parents and tend to glorify those mothers and fathers who are more liberal and who let their children do whatever they want. Be careful of such pressure tactics. While good parenting includes the delicate art of letting go and giving children independence, do not be too quick to hand over the wheel to your child straight away in a bid to win his respect.
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