Clear and unmistakable communication is important any endeavor, from ordering something online to flying airplanes, to life-saving operations. However, there are few lines of communication that are more important than those between you and your child.
Young children are our captive audience, for awhile. They will usually do their part to communicate and it’s up to parents to hear them. Outside of cleverly working to get what they want from you, young kids are very accepting of the lessons they are old enough to understand. As they get older and form their own opinions, it becomes more difficult to convince them that you are a trusted authority, but not as difficult as for those parents that did not develop an early, trusting relationship with them.
Often, a dad and his son, or daughter, will have different viewpoints on subjects from bedtime to the legalization of marijuana. A bullying dad will state clearly that his opinions are the only ones that matter and he will expect complete compliance. Often, this father is right and his child will comply, but the child may not be convinced because there was no discussion and his or her compliance may not be willful. These bullying dads often win the battles, but they rarely win the war. But if you can reason instead, you may win the battle and more importantly, the war too. To your child, being seen as worthy of your time and explanation of your views shows how much you care. Explaining your responsibilities, fears, and desires to keep them safe is a something they will understand, even if they don’t agree.
An example of reasoning
Let’s take the argument on the legalization of marijuana. As an authoritarian father, you will say something to the effect that “I know what’s best for you!” or “It’s illegal for a good reason and that’s that!”. But as a reasoning father you may say things like, “Why do you think it should be legal?” or “What do you think you would gain from it if it was legal?” I’m sure the answers would be interesting and insightful.
To follow up you could say something like.....“I’m not sure what I think about its legalization, but I know I want you to stay away from it for reasons outside of being illegal. I don’t want you to use it because I’m afraid of who you would be associating with to get it, when you would use it, and most importantly, why. And I really don’t know what the long-term impacts could be. Also, I would like to think peer pressure is not something you casually let affect you. Tell me who would not like you for not participating and why you would still respect them for not respecting your standards?”...
The tone is more important than the words themselves. The authoritarian dad is firm and unyielding - and yes, sometimes this approach is appropriate. The reasoning, authoritative dad is human and honest, wanting to be understood as much as anything. More times than not, this approach is more appropriate. It has staying power, not from fear, but from respect.
Older children are more apt to listen to guidance about topics they ask you about than the guidance you wish them to know. That is why it is so important to listen to them with your ears and eyes. You can tell by their actions when they have a question for you. That’s when they are most ready to receive, and hopefully accept, your advice. This takes great patience because you will want to help them with any issue right away. But until they are ready, your children (or anyone you mentor) will not hear you; or if they do seem to listen, your advice may not truly sink in.
How to tell when a message has sunk in
“Baron 51, this is Minneapolis Center, please climb and maintain flight level three-one-zero on a heading of zero-niner-zero degrees”
“Wilco (will comply) Minneapolis Center, FL 310 and 090 degrees. Baron 51.”
This is typical dialog I held with the controllers of the airways when I was flying in the U.S. Air Force. When you are in a crowded sky, it is vitally important that information is clearly presented and received. Air controllers want to know you heard their instructions and that you understand them completely. Pilots want to know they have someone watching over them down below.
In a family, the dad or mom are the air controllers and the kids are the pilots. For a message to be successfully transmitted it, must be delivered in a way that it can be received and understood. Oftentimes, we assume the message was delivered when it was not. This causes frustration for both involved. Our kids don’t always understand our language or get our innuendos. One technique is to have them “explain it back”. Have them tell you what you just told them and see if it’s the same thing. After a while, they will listen more intently just for self-defense. The repetition also reinforces the message to them because that is what repetition does. Like a mini-mantra, repeating a lesson or direction hammers the point in deeper and deeper.
Be on the same page!
Did you know that English is the official language of flying around the world? This is because there can be no doubts about the directions when flying from country to country. It’s essential that clear, understandable language also be used to communicate with your kids. Another lesson from flying. Did you know there is a clear and distinct hand-off when a pilot goes from one controlling agency to another? This is another best practice that can be used by both parents to be on the same page while co-parenting. Know your children. Make sure your children know you. And be on the same page with your co-parent. And FLY SAFE!