Help your kids by talking less, accepting more

You want your child to come to you when they are struggling. You want your kids to know you are a resource when they’re confused and always available when life gets them down.

But when they come to you, you talk too much.

Instead of being a safe haven, you teach. Instead of being an understanding presence, you lecture.

Don’t worry, you are not alone. I struggle with this, too. I’ve had to remove the words “teachable moment” from my vocabulary because I was finding way too many of them; I always felt like I had something important to say.

But my professional and personal experience show me that kids need less talking and more listening. They need fewer lectures, less judgment and more unwavering support.

Maybe they eventually will need a consequence for a choice, but in the moment of sharing, they are highly vulnerable. They need to feel safe with the decision to talk to you; they need to know your first instinct is unconditional love.

We want to guide our children and tell them how to make life easier, but the truth is that mistakes and challenges are necessary and normal. We hope to share lessons that inspire conscientious decisions, but in the end, our children learn by falling down and making poor choices.

It’s important to understand that children learn by watching how we live, not by what we say. So while we search for the perfect words or the most influential speech, our children are noticing our choices, watching the way we treat ourselves and how we deal with challenges.

Instead of focusing on words, we need to demonstrate what we want to teach. If we want our children to be less anxious, we need to model what this looks like. And when we have difficulty modeling appropriate behavior, we need to acknowledge it, ask for forgiveness, and find the courage to try again.

In the meantime, as we work on our behaviors, we can practice being quieter and less judgmental when they come to us for help. Our kids usually just want to share their experience so they can move on.

Even more importantly, they want to know that you are present when they feel overwhelmed, that you can momentarily set aside your urge to talk and teach and instead choose to listen, empathize and accept.

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