Since July I've been dealing with some pesky eye stuff. I've been in and out of the eye doctor's office and every couple of hours I am putting drops in my eyes. These drops leave me feeling kind of yucky and my vision gets blurry and I can't see very well. Because of this, I've not been on the computer or my phone as much as I usually am. My work is suffering, but my relationship with my kids is actually improving.
No, this isn't a post about put down your phone you're a bad mom. This is a post about figuring out the best ways to connect with your kids.
Normally my kids are good communicators. In between begging for food and money, they tell me a little bit about their days, but I don't get all the good details that I want. Normally when I realize that my kids haven't shared much with me in a while, I pack them into the car and go for a ride. There's something about driving along a stretch of road that really gets them jabbering. With my eyes dilated to the size of dinner plates, I can't exactly go for a drive these days. So instead, I've been hanging out in my darkened bedroom with a cool towel over my eyes like some sort of Victorian lady with the vapors. It doesn't take long for my kids to find me. There is something magic about sitting together without making eye contact that makes kids open up.
Years ago I learned a sales technique where you stay silent and let the other person talk. People hate silence and naturally want to fill it. In sales, they tend to fill that silence with information that should not have been shared and is helpful to your deal. This technique works wonders on kids, because in addition to spilling the beans, I find that my kids come to their own conclusions based on conversations we've already had. It's like they remember the lessons I've been teaching them for the last 10 years. Hallelujah!
Over the weekend I was resting on my son's bed while he was supposed to be cleaning out his closet. I wanted him to try on his clothes and see what will still fit him this winter. (I can't read my phone, but I can see if his pants are too short.) Out of nowhere he said, “Kids in my grade are drinking.”
I played it super cool. “Seventh graders are drinking?” I said. “Friends of yours?”
He shook his head. “No.”
“How do you know?” I asked. “Could be a rumor.”
“They told me,” he said. “And guess what, Mom? Their parents don't even care.”
“What would you do if you caught me drinking?” he asked.
I stayed silent, not even daring to peek at him from beneath my washcloth.
“You would care,” he said.
I stayed silent.
“We've talked about this a lot,” he said.
I stayed silent.
“You've given me lots of reasons why I shouldn't drink until I'm old enough,” he said.
I stayed silent.
“It's just that I can't believe they'd do that. I can't believe their parents don't care. Don't they realize how bad that is for kids? They're supposed to be parents!”
I stayed silent.
“Yeah, so, that's happening,” he said. “But don't worry. I'm not going to do that.”
Finally I spoke. “Gomer, this is just the beginning. You're in seventh grade and I can remember when my classmates started experimenting with all kinds of things in seventh grade. Some of them will try and get you to try things too. And you're right, some of the parents don't care. Some parents would offer to buy us beer when I was in high school. But that that doesn't matter. You have to remember who you are and what kind of person you want to be. You have to remember what your goals are for the future and how underage drinking or doing other dangerous things could ruin that future. I don't know what exactly Dad and I would do if we caught you drinking. You shouldn't worry about the punishment. The punishment isn't what keeps you from doing something wrong. It's your own self-respect. Always remember that.”
He went back in his closet and left me alone in his room to over-analyze our conversation. Why did he tell me that stuff? What was I supposed to do with that information? Did he get the message I was sending? My mother once told me that she was surprised how much my kids tell me. She was raised in a house where if you talked about things like underage drinking, then you must be doing it, so she never talked about it with her parents. When she raised me and my brother she tried to do better, but there was still a lot of “we don't talk about that kind of stuff.” I don't want to raise my kids like that. I want to be their main source of information--nothing is off limits. I'm not naive enough to think that they're never going to make poor decisions, but I do hope that they'll always feel comfortable talking to me about anything that's going on in their lives. I hope that they trust me and come to me for advice. All I can do is keep talking to them and listening to them. When they stop talking to me that's when I'll know something is up.
What about you? How do you get your kids to talk to you?
This post was sponsored by Responsiblity.org and I am part of the #Asklistenlearn blogger program. All views and opinions are my own. Thanks to Reponsibility.org for always encouraging me to find ways to talk to my kids about this important topic.