Keeping the Road to Communication Open

A father and son embracing

Is it true that some people are easier to talk to than others? Some people naturally have a way about them that leaves us feeling like we can share our deepest thoughts and concerns. We feel safe, knowing that they will never reject us or freak out about what we say.

How important is it that we remain this type of person to our kids? Does this increase the likelihood that they’ll make good decisions about drugs, alcohol, dating, driving, their educations, and the variety of nursing home they eventually select for us? Do we maintain open communication with our kids so that we can talk with them about these important topics?

Our kids observe us with keen eyes and ears, subconsciously evaluating and testing whether we are someone with whom they can share their lives. The more tests we pass, the more likely they’ll come to us when they are hurting or facing temptation. Below are three common tests that give clues to kids about how we will communicate with them.

Test: Are you going to freak out?
Here’s how a dad described the way his son started early. “At age seven, he nonchalantly approached me and said, ‘I don’t think telling the truth is so important. Lying isn’t a big deal.’” Fortunately, this father had learned to use the techniques of Love and Logic. He responded by saying, “I was so thankful for Love and Logic, because it taught me to avoid losing it in these situations. I simply replied, ‘Thanks for sharing your opinion,’ and I walked away. Over the years, I’ve noticed that this is his way of seeing if I’ll get upset.”

Test: Do you really care?
It can also be harmful to remain silent over important values. As parents, we have an obligation to guide our kids. One strategy for doing so involves listening to their opinion and then asking questions about possible consequences. For example:

“I appreciate you sharing that with me. Do you think that _______________ might happen if a person did that?”

Test: Do you really believe in me?
Lectures poison relationships. They do so because they communicate a lack of belief in others. Some of the messages they send are:

“I don’t believe you are capable of evaluating the potential consequences of the choices you face.”

“I’m not sure that you are bright enough to learn from the mistakes you make.”

“I don’t trust that you can learn without being told multiple times.”

When we use fewer words, and more thoughtful questions, we will send this far more empowering message:

“If any kid could figure out how to make healthy decisions about this, you’d be that kid!”

Test anxiety can be debilitating, even for parents! That’s why it’s best to remember that you don’t always have to pass these tests perfectly to raise great kids successfully. The key is demonstrating the desire and the drive to improve each day. With patience and consistency, you can keep the road to communication open and send empowering messages.

In March of this year, Dr. Amen and I will release a new book, Raising Mentally Strong Kids, that combines these principles and practices into an integrated approach for raising confident, kind, responsible, and resilient kids.


Thanks for reading!

Dr. Charles Fay


Raising Mentally Strong Kids

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