I would never profess to be the perfect parent or even close to it. So before I even get into parenting tips I wanted to get that out of the way. I had a request to blog about how to get your children to talk to you and ultimately be close to you so they can share things that you need and want to know. I can only speak to what works for me. I can validate what works for me by stating that my teenage son hugs and kisses me every morning when we get out of the car in front of the high school car rider line for all to see. My oldest daughter tells me everything without fear of judgement. My youngest daughter will wave and acknowledge me in front of all the kids on the bus. My kids are not ashamed of me. For that, I am grateful and for me and my family, we are doing something right. But again, I never profess to know all the answers or be a model parent. I am not.
One of the main ways that I keep my kids close to me and not afraid to open up and tell me things is I never judge them. They are not me. They will not handle things the way that I do or the way that I might think is best. I respect them as individuals with different ideas than I have. There is more than one way to skin a cat. And more than one way to handle a problem. If my child comes to me with a problem, I listen intently to the problem, give my advice, but always say, "But you do what you want to do." Now I am speaking of teens here. Not younger children. Younger children have to have that guidance of mom telling them what to do. Sitting in the judgement seat of every decision that your teens make is only going to drive them away. If you want them to talk to you you have to listen and give advice without judging or trying to press your own opinions upon them. I know many times I have had a discussion with my teens then known that they will learn a lesson from the college of hard knocks. Many times, lessons are more valuable from the College of Hard Knocks that from mom and dad. Sometimes it is hard to watch your children fall flat on their face but they won't do it again. College of Hard Knocks has a good retention rate. Sometimes better than a flat out "no" from mom.
I vividly remember when my oldest was 13, we were out shopping and she wanted a pair of shoes to match an outfit. I told her, "All you need is a pair of brown shoes, a pair of black shoes, a pair of athletic shoes and a pair of sandals. Those shoes will match everything." Her reply was one that helped me be the parent I am today. She said, "Mom, I am not you. I am a girly girl and I want shoes and jewelry to match my outfits." Point well taken, Baby Girl. You are definitely not me and I will not try to make you into me or force my opinions upon you. I have formed my parenting around this statement ever since. I have learned to appreciate my children for being individuals and have been proud of them for every little thing they do. I am living my life the way I want to and they are living their lives the way they want to. In our house, we embrace different personalities and different thinking. Of course we always have God as our common denominator, but in the little things, we embrace differences. To this day, when I go shopping with my oldest, I have to look at jewelry and shoes to match an outfit and I do it with pride even if I don't find it necessary for myself. Respect. Respect of my child. She is not me. I wouldn't want her to be.
I don't micromanage my children. If their rooms are a disaster, yes it drives me nuts. I handle this easily. I shut the door. Then I don't have to look at it. I do go in with a bulldozer and a trash bag occasionally while they are at school but all in all, I don't sweat this. I realize that when they have their own place they will keep it clean. My children have chores, and they clean. And they do clean their rooms, but in 15 minutes it looks like a tornado hit it, so I shut the door. It keeps me happy and sane. Respect. Realize they won't go to their grave living in squalor. I teach them to clean, show them how to do it, help them, then let it go.
I asked my children what goes on in our house that causes them to feel free to talk to me and give me information and include me in their business. My oldest daughter said, " You are not judgmental, you always listen to me and you give me your opinion on my problem but you don't panic or judge me, you just give me advice and let me make my own decision, good or bad. You are not all up in my business so it makes me feel respected and able to talk to you. When I make mistakes, you are not all Bertha Better than Thou saying YOU ARE WRONG. You get on my level and understand where I am coming from." My son, also a teenager and my youngest 10 year old agrees. My son says, "Mom lets us go places and have faith that we will make good decisions and when we don't, we learn from them and go tell mom about them. She doesn't judge us. She teaches us right from wrong and trusts us that we will do right. She understands us and puts herself in our shoes. She knows us." My youngest says I am approachable.
The interesting thing to me about my interviews with my children are that I do random phone checks. I check their email, I look at their facebook, instagram, twitter, I check their text messages, I know who their friends are, I stalk them. So for them to say I am not all up in their business is interesting to me.
Being authentic applies to being real with your children as well as in your life. Being real and transparent with your children will cause you to be an oasis rather than a sea of dread for the whippersnappers. I have never been my children's friend, always their parent, but as their parent, telling them, "I remember when I was in this same situation so I know exactly what you are going through." will help them cope and approach you with problems because they feel you know how their shoes fit and feel.
As my oldest goes to college on Thursday I look back at the last 18 years and how the seasons of childhood affect us all. I have enjoyed these past couple of weeks with just me and her because it has helped me realize how wonderful a young lady she is, how blessed I am to be her mother, and how she has now become my friend. She is now my friend because I allow her to make her own decisions and am proud of her in how she is different from me. She will not do the same things I did, wear the same things I do, say the things I did, live her life the way I did. We are individuals. God made us that way and I am excited to watch my baby fly with the wings we have crafted for the past 18 years.
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Jennifer Anglin is a motivational speaker, life coach and author who shares personal stories of triumphs and tragedies to give hope to a dying world.