There’s usually not much you get out of your child when you ask them how their day was. Sometimes it’s only a few grunts.
So how do you connect with someone who doesn’t offer more than a few words to your inquiries? Educator Alex Shevrin writes that there are some phrases that can help your child know you care and eventually get them talking without you needing to pester them with questions. True, your actions speak louder than your words, but if you have the words wrong, it’s hard to show your child you love and care about them. Here are some phrases to help you make the connection you crave.
1. I don’t know
Let yourself be vulnerable to your children. As with any relationship, if you want them to be honest and authentic you have to be both of those as well. And let’s face it, even as a parent, you definitely don’t have all the answers.
Sometimes it’s just that you don’t know the answer. But at other times it’s that you don’t know what it feels like to be them or go through their disappointments. When you really don’t know, admit it. Build your relationship on honesty and they’ll be more comfortable admitting their vulnerabilities as well.
2. Let’s figure it out together
Follow up your “I don’t know” with this phrase and it suddenly makes you a team. You can’t solve everything, but you can work on it together.
3. Tell me more
Learn to listen better, prompt at the right times and stay quiet more than you speak and you’ll discover that what’s on their mind tends to come out eventually (either in words or actions). Often our children are ready to answer but our listening skills are lacking.
4. Yes, now let’s think about what that means for you and those around you
Your kid is probably going to ask questions out of curiosity or just to get a reaction. First say “yes” to validate what’s being said, then look through the possible consequences with them. Yes, they can stay up late. Do they know how that will make them feel the next day? How it might make you grumpier from your lack of sleep?
Most kids can technically do anything. Help them figure out why it’s in their best interest not to.
5. You have value
Acknowledge the good things your child does every single day. Those things are there, even when it’s not obvious. Recognizing those actions validates them for the right things (being kind, making a good choice, working hard, obeying a request).
6. I love you
Do you say this everyday? Children (and adults) need to hear this often. If it’s not both said verbally and shown through actions, your child won’t remember your love.
7. I love you, but this is how your choice affected me
Regardless of their choices, your child should know you love them no matter what, but that doesn’t mean you don’t discipline and show that their choices have a ripple effect. No child makes only good or only bad decisions. Point out a time they’ve made a good choice (similar to the bad choice they made) and ask what happened that caused them to make the poor choice.
These actions may seem small, but they build upon each other to create a strong foundation and relationship between you and your child. Show your love every day and see how strong your connection grows.