Posted by: Sara Carbone on: January 31, 2012
Perhaps when you and your daughter discuss why she cut three math classes the conversation flows like water, buoyed along by mutual respect and understanding. If so, then you’re blessed and congrats on a job well done. But for many parents, giving advice gets stopped by a wall of misunderstanding, resentment or just plain goofy mistakes. Some do’s and don’ts to pack when scaling the wall:
Do not lecture.
I repeat. Do NOT lecture your kid. Yes, you are full of wisdom and experience that can transform his life academically and otherwise. But most speeches past three or four sentences, no matter how brilliant, start to feel like noise to him. Limit your turn at speaking to short little nuggets of gold – 30 seconds tops. Let him take in the nugget, wait for or ask for his response to see if he heard you. See if he’ll share what he thinks of your advice. Then, if he seems open to more (observe closely for glazed eyes or other signs of disinterest), go ahead and offer another nugget.
Do take the long view.
A strong student is not built in a day. It can take a new student of mine up to a year to really perk up his ears to what I have to say or feel comfortable enough to honestly share what’s going on. And if you and your kid are trying to create open communication for the first time, it takes time and trial and error. Also, it’s really hard to break bad habits and acquire new ones. Sometimes I need to drop advice to a student around ten times over several months before the suggestion starts to sink in – let alone become a habit. These could be things like studying beyond one quick read through of the textbook or actually reading teacher essay comments. Kids need to try out suggestions and (hopefully) see results. So be patient.
Do take a collaborative approach.
When a kid feels that you are genuinely working with her to figure something out she is 10 times more willing to listen. I go right out and tell my students “I am not here to tell you what to do, but to work with you so that together we can figure out what works best.” And then I practice what I preach. Yes, there are limits to this as as a parent. But for many things involving school, children like it when their input and preferences are respected. And besides, it helps them learn to problem solve for when you’re not around.
Don’t try to force her to listen to you.
If your kid doesn’t want to talk about something right then, don’t push it. Try it out another time – or let him know you’ll need to discuss the bad test grade later that evening. If a kid feels forced or harassed into a conversation about school (or anything for that matter), they don’t tend to listen and communicate well.