This week’s blog post is about an issue that many parents experience in this age of helicopter parenting and tech devices that monitor their kids. I am grateful to the two parents who wrote in about it and asked me to discuss it.
"My son is 12 and pushes me away. I’m already a cool, fun and reasonable parent but now even my voice is annoying to him all of a sudden. What can we do? Ignore and wait till 14?" - Michelle
"A 17 year old is refusing to talk to any family member at home for a half year. He isolates himself in his room, but he does play games and chat with friends. His social behaviors are normal in school. What I can do to break the ice or improve our current relationship?" - Nicole
Both questions involve kids who feel alienated from their parents and have cut off or cut back communication.
How does this start and what can parents do about it?
People who have read my book How to Raise Successful People: Simple Lessons for Radical Results know that I have an acronym T.R.I.C.K. that runs throughout the book. It applies to parenting, to all interpersonal relationships including work place relationships, and to teacher-student relationships. It stands for trust, respect, independence, collaboration and kindness. In the book, I give multiple real world examples.
The most important behaviors a parent can model for their children on a daily basis are trust and respect.
Trusting your child means believing in them. Believing they can come up with ideas that matter. When a parent trusts their child and believes in them, the child respects and believes in him/herself. They then develop self confidence and grit.
The main reason kids stop talking to their parents is because they don’t feel trusted and respected by their parents. It is simple. They are afraid to tell their parents what they think. So they stop talking. It can happen in many ways, big and small.
Anger, yelling, hitting, criticizing or not listening make a kid feel disrespected. You need to look back and see how you were treating your child. Try to keep a daily journal. It will help you understand yourself and you can see patterns of behavior. One question you can ask yourself is whether you would treat another person’s child that way. If the answer is no, then you should not do it to your child.
Parents tend to be judgemental and imply or say they always have the answer. They frequently force their child to take their advice. I am a parent and I know it is hard to avoid that; we adults know the mistakes we have made and we want to protect our kids from those same mistakes but what happens instead is that we come off as helicopter parents, always hovering, or snowplow parents, always clearing the way. Kids do not want your help all the time; they want to be able to do many things on their own. They want parents who believe in them and give them independence; parents who collaborate with them and don't dictate.
Collaborate with them, don’t dictate.
That doesn’t mean you don’t set boundaries and guidelines or that you let them do whatever they want. No, that is not what I am saying. It means kids know why you are making that suggestion and understand and they have input and actively listen.
Many kids don’t want to become what their parents want them to become, and they build walls in their teenage years to protect themselves. And then they continue this pattern of behavior as adults. Reversing this is tough but it can be done if both parties collaborate. It will take time but you can do it.
A study called the Hidden Voices project was done on estrangement between parent and child.
The majority of kids who feel estranged from their parents don’t communicate because they feel disrespected and criticized. They feel emotionally abused from over parenting.
The dominant drive in the teenage years is for independence. It is important to remember the words of the famous poet Kahlil Gibran.
Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself. They come through you but not from you, And though they are with you yet they belong not to you
So what can you do if there is already a problem?
- Recognize the problem and talk about it with your child
- Explain how you made some mistakes but now want to correct them and work collaboratively with them
- Don’t just talk about it, actually put respect into your actions.
- Give them access to my book and tell them the acronym TRICK. Most kids I have talked to wanted this parents to read the book.
- Explain this is a new beginning and stick to it.
- Take small steps everyday but make sure they are done collaboratively
- Remember to apologize when you make mistakes. That sets a positive example for your kids. We all make mistakes. “Children learn more from what you are than what you teach them.”