All parents desire that their children share their problems with their parents. However, many children do not share the same desire. Why does such a situation arise?
It is very often painful for children to bring up their problems to their parents. If, what they get in return from their parents are nothing more that irrelevant, and sometimes inappropriate, responses and instructions, the children will feel that it is not worth their trouble to be open with their parents. Also, sometimes, the responses are so dis empowering to the children that they are actually not only counter-productive, they can be very damaging to their children’s development.
We, as parents, have to understand the reasons why giving out advices without careful understanding is not helpful. We will have to learn to respond to our children’s problems in such a way that we empower them to solve their own problems.
We shall now discuss the reasons why giving advices to our children the usaul way is not helpful to our children.
We assume that we know what the problems are and forget to first listen carefully in order to better understand the problems. As a result, due to lack of in-depth understanding of the real issues, the advice that we so readily provide will not be relevant and will not solve the problems.
Without sufficient probing, we may not understand our children’s points of view or perspectives on what trouble them. As a result we do not provide the solutions that our children need. When our children share conflict that they are having with their friends, we may start advising them on how to stay away from those friends while they actually may be feeling guilty for not treating their friends right and want to gain the courage to apologize to their friend. As a result we may be doing further damage to relationships that they are trying so hard to salvage.
In our eagerness and haste to provide the counsel, we forget to extend empathy to our children for the problems they are facing. Our children will not feel connected to us, and they may feel that whatever suggestions we provide have no bearings on their problems and are unlikely to be accepted.
As we are the one dishing out the advice, if the advice turns out to be good, the credit goes to us and not to our children. On the other hand, if the advice is taken and implemented but does not turn out to be successful, it is taken to be our children’s fault as the advice is likely to have been one that was successful when followed by another person. In this case, it is a lose-lose situation for our children because if the advice is successful, we claim the credit and if it is a failure, it is a reflection of our children’s incompetence and stupidity.
We take the position of the experts who have the knowledge and wisdom and we talk down when we give advice, instead of speaking as equals. We treat our children as if they have neither the knowledge nor the skills to handle the problems. It is a one-way traffic and likely to be resented by our children because they feel that we treat them as if they have nothing good to share with us.
We give the message that we think our children cannot develop the solutions themselves. This is disempowering for our children and will do great harm to our children’s development.
We do not show appreciation for the efforts our children have taken in solving their own problems. This will discourage them to take great efforts in coming up with their own solutions and taking the necessary steps to solve the problems when other problems crop up in the future.
They may just want to share their problems with us and do not want or need any counsel from us at all. Whatever advice we provide may not only be futile, but damaging to our children’s self esteem.
We shall now discuss what we shall take into consideration when we respond to our children’s sharing of the issues that they face.
How are you going to understand their problems and help your children gain a better understanding of their own problems so that they can develop their own solutions? As parents, we encourage our children to connect the various aspects of the problem that trouble them in order to help them to have a good grasp of the specific issues that trouble them and encourage them to develop their own solutions.
How are you going to show sufficient empathy with your children so that they feel fully connected with you enough to express their real thoughts and feelings and be receptive of what wisdom you may have to offer? Our children want to feel that we are there with them - not just physically, but emotionally as well. We want them to feel that we do feel the way they feel. It is vital that we do not belittle their feelings.
How are you going to make the situations “win-win” for them? That is, how are you going to encourage them to develop their own solutions and they take the credit when they succeed and also take the credit for the efforts taken when they fail? If they are the ones who come up with the solutions they should be the ones who claim the credits when they succeed. On the other hand, if they fail, provide the encouragement that they have taken the efforts which are by themselves very admirable. When they fail, encourage them to get up again, examine the reasons for failure and try again.
The last, but definitely not the least, question is this: “What else can you do to make them feel that it is always good for them to bring their problems to you?”