Giving Kids a Voice
As parents, we tell our children what to do. It is our job to set limits and boundaries,
and teach them how to behave and be respectful. I would imagine I bark orders at
my kids at least twenty times a day. “Be nice to your sister,” “get dressed,” “sit up,”
“chew with your mouth closed,” “clean up your toys” are just a few of the everyday
utterances that leave my mouth. As a child being on the receiving end, I could
imagine this may get frustrating. Nobody likes to be told what to do and just like us,
children also have opinions, desires, and needs. And so the power struggle begins…
I am constantly tested by my children’s demands and often contemplate how much
say they are allowed to have. Do they get to choose what they want to wear in the
morning, or do I? Do they get to pick what they want to eat for dinner, causing me
to cook two, often three different meals? If they don’t want to do a planned activity,
such as going to a soccer practice or friend’s house for a play date, do I give in to their request?
Most of the time society tells us that as parents, we are in charge and need to
maintain authority within the family. But an epidemic I have noticed are children
acting entitled and disrespectful towards their parents, teachers, and coaches. I also
notice that most children don’t just automatically respect their elders; instead,
respect must be earned, which is different than it was generations past.
So how do we earn our children’s respect? It’s simple, by respecting them. It is
important that we truly listen to what our children. Listen to them the same way we
listen to our partners and friends. Then after we listen, we need to let our children
know that we’ve heard what they said. That might mean that we just repeat what
they said, such as “I hear that you want to play longer, but it’s time to go.”
Answering a child “because I said so and I am your parent” when they ask why can
come in handy, and certainly has a time and place. But if we don’t allow a child to
question the world they live in, we may be teaching them not to be curious. When
we disregard our children’s feelings, or tell them we don’t care what they think, we
may be sending a message to be silent, which in the moment can be effective. But
the long-term impact of this may mean that we are raising our children not to speak
up when they are bullied, assaulted, or mistreated. We may be raising young adults
that do not have the resources to speak out for what they believe in, because they
were never given the chance. We may be raising adults who cannot resolve a
conflict because they are too frightened to speak their mind.
As parents, we must teach children to trust themselves, and in order to do this; we
have to validate their voice. That doesn’t necessarily mean giving into their every
wish and demand. We all want what’s best for our children. We all try to do the best
job we can. Ultimately, we will never be perfect. And that’s ok.
1/12/2016 04:57:16 am
Well said Nicole! I teach this to my students in my Life Cycles class, which is a hs freshman teaching elective. The kids do agree that they like to be listened to and really get it. I think they'll benefit from your blog here too, thanks for the wisdom!!
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Nicole Wegweiser, LCSW