Passionate Instigator, Dynamic Problem Solver
February 26th, 2014 05:00:00 am
We send a number of mixed messages to our youth. We tell them to shoot for the sky but to remember their limitations. We guide them to be an individual as long as they fit in. We encourage them to take risks but not too risky or too many. If all those messages are not confusing enough, we tell them to think for themselves and then tell them what to think.
We celebrate only the rebels who rebel and “win” while equally condemning the rebels who rebel and loose. Unfortunately, it is rarely the rebel who knows ahead of time what the future holds, so in the end the message is not to rebel at all, at least not without guarantees and we all know what kind of guarantees life comes with.
The mixed messages go on and on.
So the question is: Are the guiding forces of our children hypocritical in nature, confusing or do they just not know what they are talking about? You might also ask, who is "we?" Well we are the parents, the educators, the media, the social structures, the churches, any and all support systems, the ones to whom our youth look to, to emulate, to learn from and to be guided by.
So the question I now ask you is: Are you part of the "we?" Are there youth who you would play any of these roles to, intentionally or not?
The first and easiest problem to recognize is that the more people involved in a process the more confusing the messages that are given out are going to be.
The second problem is that there are often inconsistencies within the same group (school, church, family). A child might get one set of messages from one teacher and a completely different one from another. Or even more confusing is to get one from one parent, a different one from another parent and in the world of step-parents there could be four different messages sent concerning the same idea, belief or way of being in the world. Now that is more of a new phenomenon, but certainly a much older one is one from a parent or parents and another one from the grandparent(s).
The third problem is that within the same person there are conflicting messages. The more the child looks up to, respects or feels dependent upon that adult, the more confusing and damaging that message may be. That conflict may be created by verbal inconsistencies but even more so by saying one thing and doing another.
So, now we have outlined the problems, how about some solutions?
There are four simple steps, which can help your child, maneuver through the jungle of mixed messages.
When dealing with your child, check in and see where are your inconsistencies.
Are you saying things that actually represent what you believe and how you act within the world or do you have internal inconsistencies that you have not come to terms with yet? Being self aware and willing to be self-questioning helps you to be a better parent to your child.
Listen to what you are saying.
Often when dealing with parents in my practice, one parent will point out something that another one has said more than once to a child that they disagree with only to find out that the parent that they are telling this to is horrified because they are saying things that they heard as a child and hated. They don’t even realize they are saying it.
Respond to your child and be honest when you don’t know or are inconsistent.
Often parents will sidestep when their children are pointing out their inconsistencies or asking for clarification on something that the parent has said that the parent does not have the answer to. Somewhere along the way, parents got duped into believing that when it comes to their children, they should be all knowing and all powerful. When your child doesn’t understand or questions something, make sure that you not only try to find a different way to say it, but also make sure you check in on what you are saying and why?
Teach your child critical thinking skills.
Probably what I consider the most important thing is to teach your child critical thinking skills. Help them develop the ability to think through what they are seeing, hearing and experiencing. Develop their ability to discern what is right and wrong for themselves. By encouraging conversations and back and forth discussion and debate it helps your child stretch their abilities to understand and puzzle things out on their own. No matter what role you play in a child’s life, you can’t always be there for them nor should you be. Each step in a child’s life is to help them move to the discovery and understanding of themselves, their place in the world, as well as giving them the tools and skills to live happy and fulfilled lives. Confusing them with contradictions, whether through those contradictions being between parents or if the contradiction is between words and actions or telling them what to think or who to be does not work in the end. The life they live as a child now is not the same life you lived as a child. Help them to be them. Don’t lead them to feel that there value or worth is in trying to be a mini you or that their goal in life is to be exactly who you want them to be.
Remember your ultimate gift to your child is helping them to be them.