If you ask your kids what they want from you, they might say ice cream for dinner, the new toy that just came out, or a late curfew. But if you look under all that surface stuff, you will see that your children want a lot more than just that new video game. And if you really listen to what your kids wants, you will find that their wants are actually interactions and support that they need from you.
1) Give Me Firm and Kind Limits: Setting limits and holding firm to them with consistency shows that you care. Limits actually make a child feel loved, and limits provide security for a child too. So stick to your rules and your boundaries, be firm to your limits, but do so in a kind and compassionate way.
2) Model Behavior You Want Me To Do: Children will do as you do. Children learn by watching you. If you yell at them, they will yell at others. If you criticize them, they will think less of themselves and will criticize others. If you treat your child with respect, they will treat you and others with respect. If you model compassion for others, they will have compassion for others too. If you hold firm to your limits, you are teaching them to hold firm to their limits (which is so important when they start getting peer pressure). If you look for the good in them, they will look for the good in themselves, others, and the world.
3) Talk With Me: Parents do a lot of talking at their children (ie. “Put your shoes away”, “Make good choices”, “Study hard”, “Be kind”). But kids want you to talk with them, not at them. There are two ways you can practice this: 1) Instead of speaking in commands, ask open ended questions to get your child thinking and/or to start a conversation. Instead of “Put your shoes away” say “Where do your shoes belong?” Instead of “study hard” say “What do you need to do to get the grade you want out of this class?” And 2) Talk to your child about your day (keep it age appropriate). Ask for their advice, have them teach you something. Talking with our children instead of at them, gives them a sense of value.
4) Listen To Me: Sometimes our kids just want to be listened to without our judgement or opinion. You don’t have to solve all your child’s problems and you don’t have to share all your wisdom with them. Sometimes our children just want some empathy. They just want to feel heard and understood.
5) Accept Me For Me: Stop comparing your child to their siblings, friends, or your friend Suzy from book clubs kids. Celebrate and respect your child’s differences.
6) Let Me Make Mistakes: Mistakes are a wonderful learning tool. Give your child the space to make mistakes and learn from them when they are young and the consequences are much smaller, as compared to when they’re adults and the consequences are bigger. When given the opportunity to make mistakes, children become resilient, they become problem solvers, and they build their self esteem. These things will all greatly benefit their future.
7) Give Me Choices/Allow Me To Make My Own Choices: Give your child a lot of practice making choices, because when they go out into the world, they are going to be faced with choices every day. They need practice now, so they are prepared as adults.
8) Trust Me: Trust your child not only to learn from their mistakes and to make good choices, but also trust that your child’s intentions are good. Your child isn’t a bad child. You did not raise a bad child. You are raising a child who is learning. A child who is learning how to get their needs met (the need to feel loved, valued, accepted, heard, powerful, etc.). Even when your child misbehaves, trust that their intent isn’t to be bad, but to fill their needs.
9) Spend Quality Time With Me: There is nothing children want more than to spend quality time with you. Yes, even your teenager who sighs at the thought of hanging out with her parents. So put down your phone, turn off the tv, and focus all of your attention on your child. Maybe it’s a nightly walk around the neighborhood or a weekly lunch date. Do this consistently and you will see your relationship improve as well as your child’s behavior improve.
10) Encourage Me: Instead of offering a simple praise like “good boy/girl” or “great job”, be specific in your encouragement, and keep the focus on what your child did or might be feeling, not how you’re feeling. (ie. Instead of “Good job for sharing with your sister” say “I noticed how you shared with your sister and you two were having a lot of fun playing together” or instead of “You won the game! I’m so proud of you!” say “Wow! You worked so hard practicing for that game and you won! You should feel proud of yourself”). When you’re specific in what you encourage, you are reinforcing that behavior or quality in your child.