I have a new T-shirt with the phrase, “Be a Parent, Not a Peer” on the front. What amazes me is that whenever I wear it in public, some parent will just start talking with me about how much they like the shirt and how they agree with the sentiment.
As the father of two children, I have to say I agree with the statement, as well, and support the movement. You can find more information on Facebook and even take a pledge to be more involved as a parent.
United Ways across the country are involving themselves with the movement, so after a little research, I thought I’d pass on a few things you can do with your children in the vein of good communication.
There’s communication, and then there’s good communication. Knowing how to achieve the latter isn’t always so easy. Be sure it’s a good time to talk and focus 100 percent on truly communicating with your child. Have a plan before you begin and gather your thoughts before you approach them.
It goes without saying that you should be calm and patient, but as a parent, I know this is difficult. Limit distractions. Don’t try to have a deep conversation while watching television.
Remember the word CALM and break it down to help you stay that way. Take the first letter C and remember that it stands for controlling your thoughts and your actions. A stands for assessing your own feelings and decide if you are too upset to continue. L is for leaving the situation if you are too angry or upset. Screaming at each other isn’t productive. Finally M is for making a plan to deal with the situation within a 24-hour period.
It’s difficult to not bring strong feelings into a conversation, but remember that the calmer you stay means a productive end result.
Think about how you like to be heard. The kind of information you will receive depends a lot on how you ask questions. Show true interest and concern. Blaming and accusing isn’t productive. My dad was pretty firm with me, but I have to say, even without the benefit of studies and psychologists, he was a master at getting me to tell why I made the decisions I made.
Empower children to problem solvers. The payoff may well be a teen that comes to you because they’re comfortable bringing issues and situations before they happen because they know you want to listen to them. It is possible to be firm without being soft.
Encourage children because it promotes a strong sense of your child’s self. Set limits to provide safe boundaries and supervise so that you know when, where and who your child is with and what they’re doing. Last but not least, know their friends.
As for me, I’m the parent of two children who will vouch that I’ve made more than my share of mistakes, but they know that I’m here to support them, love them and, sometimes, be their least favorite person, but then, I don’t want to be a peer.
John McMillin is president of the United Way of Wilson County. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.