Raise your hand if you’ve ever had a conversation with your kids similar to this?
How was school?
What did you do today?
What’cha watching on YouTube?
Sometimes having a conversation with your kids is like butting your head against a brick wall. A brick wall that rolls its eyes at you. But as parents it’s up to us to keep those lines of communication open so that when the important stuff crops up, your kids know they can talk to you. I have two ways to do it:
1) The Start Fresh Option
Have you ever asked your kids to do something simple, like clean their room, put away shoes, or empty a dishwasher, and the next thing you know it turns into a fight? You want them to do it right now. They want to do it later. The conversation escalates and bam! Power struggle.
Once a power struggles begin, it’s hard to stop. That simple request ends up deteriorating on both sides until it ends in some sort of consequence (you don’t get your phone back until you do it!), or someone storming out of the room and slamming a door.
You don’t want to back down and your child has dug in his heels and feels he has no other options but to keep digging them in, so he doesn’t want to back down either. What’s a parent to do?
Implement a Fresh Start. The Start Fresh is just that; either of you can say “Start Fresh” and it means you both have a chance to step away from the current situation and begin again.
This doesn’t mean they don’t have to do what you asked them. It’s simply a way to let them know they are never “stuck” in any given situation, and even when things are escalating, they can trust you to have their back and begin anew.
2) Tell Me One Thing You’ve Done: There Will Be No Consequences
I started doing this with my boys a few years ago. We were chatting at the kitchen table after dinner when I jokingly asked “What’s the worst thing you’ve ever done? You won’t get in trouble if you tell me, I promise.”
I can’t even remember what their answers were but we sat at that table for another 45 minutes, talking about a bunch of different things including what’s going on with other kids at school, things they would never do, etc. It was a lightbulb moment for me. So now, every few months I ask them: What’s something you did and got away with – no consequences.
Are there times I want to lose my mind when I hear their answers? Yes, absolutely. Like when they told me about the night they slept outside in the backyard and went for a bike ride together at midnight.
It took all my self-restraint NOT TO FREAK OUT. But it also sparked a conversation about why what they did was so dangerous, and also how it would have felt for me to have the police show up at my door because something had happened when I thought they were safe and sound asleep in the back yard.
Lastly, it’s been a good lesson for me. I can’t change what they’ve done in the past but I can use these conversations to help them navigate better choices in the future.