The gap I find between parents and their kid’s perspectives never ceases to amaze me. Parents often believe everything is fine, they are connecting, and that their kids are close to them. Meanwhile their kids share with me feelings of frustration, loneliness, distance and hurt. Who would of thought there was such a disconnect. It made sense when I began to seek my kids’ input and insight on the subject, for this was the case with them as well.
Coaching families across the country, I believe the problem stems from the Paradigm of Wisdom vs. Perspective. Given our age and experience we can look at our kids, the paths they are on and the things they are doing and see the flaws, issues and elements they are missing. As a result, we often see ourselves as right and minimize our kid’s thoughts ideas and perspective. Given this, we seek to impart our wisdom and insights to our kids in order to protect and help them.
In this process we may correct them, shun their ideas, and/or tell what to do. When it does not seem they are accepting our wisdom, we become frustrated, lecture, or trigger an argument because we think that we have the wisdom they need and should apply it to their lives.
What is missed in this is the kid’s perspective. In my coaching, I find that the well meaning, wisdom based messages we send are often perceived very differently by our kids. We say one thing they hear another. Where we believe we are helping them, they hear something very different.
Far too often I hear from kids that the wisdom their parents are imparting to them is perceived like they are falling short, are always wrong, and sometimes are deeply hurt by our messaging. While we deliver our wisdom in what seems to be reasonable ways, and our kids appear on the surface to go along with us, they do not show or share how the message impacted them emotionally. Then our kids end up stuffing the frustration and hurt with us and our message, in spite of our best intentions. We have no idea that this occurred.
Given our position and wisdom we may say things like:
- When I was a kid I thought the same thing.
- You will understand when you are a parent.
- Trust me you do not want to do that.
- You need to do this because
While true, these comments leave our kids feeling like they are viewed as less than or incapable. Unfortunately, I find in coaching families that this frequently leads to kids that feel like they do not measure up, are not good enough or are the problem in their family. They say things like, “If I could just be better the whole family would be better,” which is too much pressure for any kids to carry.
As a result, I find kids carrying around hurt in the relationship with their parents, which the parents have no idea exist. This builds an emotional wall between them and leads to kids that get defensive, exaggerate and overreact as little things we say trigger the unresolved issues they are carrying hidden on the inside.
Recently, a 14 year old shared in a coaching session with her parents that their messages and lectures around being responsible, making good decisions, left her believing/feeling that everything was her fault, that she was not good enough and was a failure, in spite of being a straight A student.
Unfortunately, our ability to understand and see all the issues in our kid’s lives, thinking or decisions, leaves us in a position of talking down to, rather than with our kids.
We want to impart our wisdom and have them implement it in their lives because we are older and have the life experience. We end up telling and lecturing, rather than discussing adopting an, “I am right you are wrong,” mentality which bleeds through in the things we say and especially in our non-verbal communication.
As a result, we do not consider asking them questions like:
- How do you view the situation?
- What are you considering as you approach this situation?
- What outcome are you seeking to achieve?
- Can I share some insights with you?
- Has this conversation helped?
Such questions help our kids feel understood, valued and capable. They also help them develop the ability to think through situations, as they explain it: variables and desired potential outcomes will result. In the end, this develops our kid’s wisdom: leading to more mature, capable kids that can make better decisions.
When we fail to ask these questions we also miss an amazing opportunity to understand our kid’s thought process. Often I find that kids age 9 to 16 are thinking things through on a much higher level than we believe they are. The intelligence of our kids is so much more vast than we realize. Missing these insights we are limiting and do not alter our view of our kid’s abilities and therefore do not develop confidence in them. Therefore leaving them powerless and thinking they are not able to grow the exceptional abilities they acquire.
Given the Paradigm of Wisdom vs. Perspective, we can fail to ask some of the most important questions after we share wisdom or correction with our kids. These questions seek to understand how our kids are receiving wisdom and correction.
- What did you hear me say about you?
- Has this conversation been helpful to you?
- Has this conversation hurt or frustrated you in any way?
- How do you feel about yourself given our conversation?
These questions will help you avoid the break down we are seeing in so many homes. You quickly come to know if they are taking your wisdom in a manner that leads them to feel more or less capable and closer or more distant from you. This feedback is vital if we want to remain close to our kids leading into and throughout adolescence and avoid the unintentional baggage we can create within our children.
If your kid will not answer these questions they are probably fearful of sharing their true feelings, frustration and hurts with you. This is in part natural and in part a function of past communication, where we may have unintentionally dismissed their feelings, thoughts, ideas and or opinions.
If this is the case we need to reassure them that we will listen, not argue and that we really want to understand their perspective. If this is not quite getting through to them you may need to consider past conversations where they have been hurt or felt dismissed and apologize for them.
When you reopen communication it can sometimes hurt and it requires getting a parental adolescent coach. The coach can help your kid share their frustration and hurts with past messages leading to resolution and a new openness in your communication.
If you would like to get in contact with a parental adolescent coach please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or find more information at ReviveFamily.com. I will be all ears and give you the tools to redirect this paradigm.