As many parents can attest to, sometimes getting kids to listen to us or consider our advice is an exercise in futility! As a former child yourself, you may recall thinking something along the lines of: “Whatever! My parents don’t understand! They’re too old to get it!” If you’re experiencing that sort of resistance from your kids, consider this: less may be so much more when it comes to imparting your pearls of wisdom.
If you long to minimize power struggles and improve the chances that your messages are sinking in, make sure your kids have access to a variety of young mentors/role models. Some of the best role models are kids 5-10 years older than your child. Younger kids look up to older kids. They’re cool, they don’t nag, and they’re credible, having been the same age not long ago. Mentors are especially important for only children and first-born children.
Who can you put on your ‘Role Model List’ that your child is likely to listen to and respect? Think about cousins, aunts, uncles, babysitters, coaches, your friend’s kids, neighbors. Ask for their opinions on how they’d want a particular issue to be handled if they were your child and how they might address it if they were the parent? If you like what you hear, explain that you’re looking for mentors to help your child work through problems from time to time. Tell them you want to see if your child is more receptive to problem-solving tips and suggestions when someone they look up to is initiating those conversations. The right mentor won’t need a road map–they’ll figure out what they need to do, and they’ll be flattered you asked. And you can feel good knowing that your role model’s self-confidence, communication and leadership skills will improve in the process!
So next time you’re feeling desperate to get your point across to a stubborn or defensive child, before you start lecturing or questioning, take a deep breath and go get that Role Model List. Now exhale….