Before you Spy on Your Kids, Try This
By Haley Hawks
It finally happened. The sweet child who told you all the small things like when they found an interesting rock or which kids they like to play with at recess, has turned secretive. Questions get eye-rolls and responses like,” Really, Mom?” or “That’s a dumb question,” and it’s starting to make you feel paranoid and uncomfortable.
Why won’t your child talk to you? Are they hiding something?
If this sounds familiar, it might be tempting to think you need to spy on your kids. However, before you turn to espionage, there are some basics you can try to help you connect with your child and encourage them to speak with you. There are times when we can take a closer look. If your child has a known pattern of lying, or your instincts tell you something is wrong, or there is a dramatic change in your child’s behavior, or they are knowingly breaking rules, consult with them about these issues and get them resolved so you can help your child in their time of need.
Here are four steps to communicating with your child when you feel like you have lost connection:
My father taught me I should listen at least twice as much as I talk. If you are having a hard time connecting with your children, this is especially true. Give them your full attention by disconnecting from technology and work, looking them in the eyes, listening to what they say, and being physically and emotionally available for them. Validate their feelings, even when you don’t agree; ask follow up questions, and be prepared to hear things that you don’t particularly want to hear.
Don’t feel like you have to jump in with suggestions or long speeches. Often, if a child expects a lecture, they won’t bother to open up at all. It is also important to wait for them to finish their story or point. They deserve the same amount of respect we give other adults all day long. Be prepared to interact and be genuinely interested. Your child could tell you the same thing over and over again, but if it is wonderful enough to tell you multiple times, it is worth it to pay attention for the simple reason of their joy.
2. Avoid shaming your child.
Feeling shame is when we feel “I am a mistake” or “I am a terrible person” versus feeling guilt. When we feel guilt, we think “I made a mistake.” Sometimes when we express emotions, we can inadvertently shame someone we love. “When parents vilify the adolescent for causing their unhappy feelings (“He’s made us so unhappy!”) they do double damage…through casting blame parents burden the adolescent with criticism and guilt,” (Pickhardt, 2014).
It is ok, however, to explain how you feel to your child. But try to express your feelings in ways that are less accusatory, such as “I feel sad we don’t talk as much as we used to.” And then suggest an activity your child likes in order to help you both connect. Use an activity you both enjoy as an excuse to deepen your relationship with each other.
3. Watch your tone of voice.
Our kids have a way of provoking in us many of our deepest emotions. They know all the right buttons to push. After all, they learned a great deal of the things they know from us. But that’s why we have to be so careful about the words we choose and the tone of voice we use. “In anger, sadness, exhilaration, or fear, speech takes on an urgency that is lacking from its normal even-tempered form,” (Webb, 2013). Children pick up on these tones, and it can shut down their communication with us because they have become aware of our negative energy. For example, if you have had a hard day, don’t take that out on your children and dampen their enthusiasm to tell their own stories because you aren’t in the mood.
4. Be passionate about their passion! (Or just passionate about them!)
Get outside YOUR box and get to know their passions. Encourage their interests and share in them, even if it’s Pokemon or Shopkins. Dedicate the time to understand what they love. If you show them you care enough to sit down and read that book they love or fold the thousandth paper airplane, they will see your love for them manifested in real time.
- Let your kid teach you something they love
- Take time to give them your undivided attention
- Give spontaneous or planned affection
As parents, we want our kids to become successful adults, but they can’t unless we show them the way to go. Spying on our kids might be a simple, short-term solution, but it will not solve any deep-rooted problems. Whether you choose to spy or not, let’s help our kids know they can communicate with us, and we want to communicate with them.
Need some help teaching your child you love them and want them to succeed? Check out our book, 30 Days to a Stronger Child, which will help connect you deeply with your child and help him formulate confidence in himself and you! Filled with tons of great discussions and activities, this is a book that will truly strengthen your child and your relationship with them!
Haley Hawks has a Bachelors of Science in Marriage and Family Studies from Brigham Young University-Idaho. She is passionate about learning, especially when it comes to relationships and family life. She hopes to one day be able to educate on a worldwide setting in regards to promoting goodness in the family and destroying ideals that hurt society.
Pickhardt, C. (2014, November 24). Emotional Detachment When Parenting Adolescents. Retrieved September 16, 2017, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/surviving-your-childs-adolescence/201411/emotional-detachment-when-parenting-adolescents
Webb, A. (2013, February 1st). Communication with Kids: Does Tone of Voice Matter? Retrieved September 16, 2017, from http://www.parentsareimportant.com/2013/02/communication-with-kids-does-tone-of.html