Advice for Parents - From Kids
I occasionally have the opportunity to speak with small groups of girls in focus groups about their experiences of school and life in general. These are some of my favourite moments and
great learning opportunities if I remember to listen without feeling the need to speak. While I gain valuable insights into College organisation, our pastoral programs, improvements needed to facilities and so on, occasionally I gain an insight into life beyond school for your girls. I have put together a few thoughts about advice your daughters might give you about parenting and ‘parenting strategies’ that work for them.While there is no doubt that there is some self-interest from your daughters in the advice it does make for interesting reading.
- Love me just as I am
There is nothing more comforting for kids than to know that, no matter what, their parents love them. We sometimes hear the term unconditional love used and this is what all kids need. The advice from the girls is that not only do they need to feel that they are loved, they also need to be told and reminded of our love regularly. Growing up is a nerve wracking and emotional business and our kids need to know that they have us in their corner no matter what. Unconditional love comes without strings or conditions and kids really need to be loved for who they are not what they might become.
- Remember you were once a kid too
Our kids would like us to remember that we were kids once and that we weren’t perfect fully formed humans at that stage of our lives. We were works in progress – just like them. To truly understand what our own kids are going through we need to cast our minds back to what we went through as teenagers. We need to remember that we may have been shy, embarrassed, a little rebellious or not rebellious enough. They need us to acknowledge that we had a tough time with growing up as it validates their experiences.
- Trust your kids
Trust is a really big issue for kids and they have a need to earn and maintain your trust. However, they need tangible evidence that they are trusted. Continually checking up on your kids or asking them to account for every minute sends a powerful message about trust and our lack of trust – even if that’s not what we intend. Trusting our kids can be a win – win situation as your child will tend to be more open and honest with you. However, it would be foolish to imagine that there will not be breeches of trust. We are dealing with adolescents and they are still learning the ropes of being responsible. However, one glitch shouldn’t mean that trust is broken forever. If we want our kids to learn life’s lessons we need to keep supporting them on this journey, and second, third and fourth chances are all part of the deal.
- Try not to overreact
There is nothing worse than kids telling their parents something and having them freak out and make wide sweeping statements about the end of life as we know it. Kids want to be open and up front with us, but sometimes our reactions can scare them off. If your daughter fails a maths test, doesn’t get the grades you expected or doesn’t submit an assignment, the last thing she needs is us yelling and screaming.As parents we need to be patient and thoughtful about how we react. Let them explain why things are as they are and let them talk about possible causes or solutions to situations they might find themselves in. They will be happier and so will we.
- Give them jobs around the house
Believe it or not, this was something the girls I spoke to believe is useful now, and will be more useful as they get older. They see the benefits of becoming a little more independent and contributing to the family. That doesn’t mean that they will help out willingly, however, they do see benefits for the family and for their future selves. So, force your kids to help out, give them regular jobs and hold them accountable for what they have not done. Remember this is advice from your girls!
Allow them to dream
We need to allow our kids to dream and encourage them to pursue their dreams. Your kids have amazing potential in a whole range of areas and if they are passionate they can achieve the extraordinary. They know that every dream won’t become a reality, however, they would like the opportunity to imagine what might be and give life their best shot. There is a saying “aim for the stars and if you fail you will reach the moon.” We need to be mindful that we don’t limit our children by trying to contain their aspirations within our comfort zone.
- Be my parent, not my friend
I’m sorry to say that as parents we have predestined roles. We are not 16 and no matter how hard we try we can’t be ‘cool‘ like a 16 year old. While our kids might tolerate this behaviour at times, what they really want is a parent - yes even a daggy parent. They want someone who will say no, who will bring them into line occasionally, and who will challenge them when needed. Not only do they want this, they depend on it.
Have a great weekend.
Dr Frank Pitt
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