In 1987, DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince recorded a hilarious song that captures the tumultuous relationship between teenagers and their parents called, “Parents Don’t Understand”.
I am quite certain that at least one poet of every generation has pinned similar lines, which leads us to the wise kid statement of the month: “My parents don’t even try to understand me”.
These words are spoken by every child at least once, but typically 1,000,000 times before the age of 20. If your child has never said these words to you, wait until they are a teenager. As most of my teenage clients point out, we truly do not understand the pressures of being a teenager in the 21st century.
What all children truly need is for their parents to be compassionate towards them. Compassion requires us to listen without being judgmental.
Unfortunately, our intense love for our children makes this almost impossible. When we are conversing with our children we want to jump in and correct every irrational thing that they say or do.
Our judgement of their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors in that moment is counter intuitive to what they want and need from us.
How do we resolve this age-old problem? We attempt to be initially curious instead of quick to judgment.
The definition of curiosity is “a desire to know and learn”.
Every parent wants to intimately know their children, but we hinder that possibility when we choose to form a judgment before being curious.
Curiosity listens, judgment interrupts. Curiosity asks questions, judgment lectures. Curiosity attempts to understand, judgment limits the possibility of a different perspective. If we want to truly understand our children, we have to learn to bite our tongues and be curious.
Biting our tongues is a good idea, but let’s be honest, sometimes our children’s thoughts, feelings, emotions, and behaviors are foolish and require intervention. That is why God gave parents to children.
The role of parents is to shape children into productive members of society. However, when we make judgements without being curious we tend to intervene and correct behaviors when they aren’t necessarily wrong.
Here are some practical ways to choose curiosity first:
- Listen without offering your opinion. A lot of times kids will hear their own flawed logic when we give them a safe place to verbally process their thoughts and feelings.
- Validate feelings without validating behavior. You can hold and comfort your daughter when you tell her, “No”. She needs firm boundaries, but it is okay for her to be sad about them.
- Do not always correct or disagree with their irrational thinking in the moment. You can always initiate a conversation about why you disagree later.
- Learn to appreciate the differences between yourself and your children. Take personality tests with your family and educate yourself on the variety of perspectives in your home.
- If your child’s opinion is contrary to yours, consult with adults you trust to understand your child’s viewpoint.
- Make a list of family rules that are non-negotiable and allow for some “wiggle room” in the areas not covered by those rules.