How often do kids have to listen to listen to their parents, teachers, coaches, babysitters ... and no one ever asks their opinions?
How often do kids get dismissed because we don’t think they have enough life experience to add anything meaningful to the conversation?
But, kids have something to say, and if we don’t ask their opinions, they won’t feel seen, and they won’t feel validated by their parents. Beyond that, they won’t have the experience necessary to think through their opinions and refine them.
When adults do not ask children for their opinions, children grow into adults who feel unsure of themselves. They second guess themselves. They don’t know what to think or how to make their voices heard.
Asking kids to share their opinions is such an easy thing to do, and it helps children not only build their self-esteem, but it also lets them practice having conversations and thinking through their positions and expectations for themselves and the world.
You can apply this in really small ways. You can say, “What do you think of this new policy at my work?” Or you can say, “What do you think of this thing that is going on in the news?”
You can also ask them their opinions about their own life plans. If your child is rebelling, staying out past curfew, or doing poorly in skill, you can ask the child for their opinion.
"Okay, so tell me your vision for your life. What do you want for yourself and how do you plan on getting from where you are today to where you want to go? It seems like school isn't very important to you, and while there are plenty of successful people who didn't do well in school, in does limit your options. How do you see it working out for you? What's your plan?"
When children feel like they are being controlled, they are focused only on resisting. That's just human nature. But when you make space for their opinions, and for them to suffer the consequences of their opinions, they start taking responsibility for their own lives.
When you seek your kids’ opinions about big things and little things, they aren’t faced with this dilemma of having to fight to get out of your control, so they are more likely to choose a course of action that is good for them.
All of this helps them practice making good decisions, taking responsibility, and beginning to own who they are and how they show up in the world.
The conversation is the relationship.When you have good conversations with your kids, you have good relationships with your kids.
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