Let’s put the old “tough love” myth to rest right now. You know what I mean: The myth that says if you tell your child the “hard truths,” exactly what you think and feel about their behavior and allow life to teach them a difficult lesson, it will set them straight.
Why not tough love? Because I promise it’s going to backfire on you.
If you really want your child to listen and to change their behavior, your best hope is to change strategies. Dig deep to strengthen your relationship. Put on your best listening ears. Even though it seems counterintuitive, get ready to experience even more discomfort as you work to understand your child. Trust me, it’s the good, clean kind.
Wouldn’t you be willing to feel the discomfort of hearing more details of your child’s perspective, adding more fear or worry to your life in the short term, if it meant your child is more likely to feel loved and connected to you in the long run?
Remember, as a parent, you matter more than anyone else in your teen’s life. Don’t underestimate the impact and influence you have. I’ve seen this time and again both in real-life families and what I’ve learned from scientific research. You don’t have to spend a lot of extra energy to make a big impression on your child. Instead, spend your energy in a different way.
Here’s Karla from drugfree.org with the winning formula.
If you are prepared to have this type of conversation with your child: Great! Go for it!!
How to Ensure Success
If you are interested in starting this kind of conversation with your child but are worried you will quickly get overwhelmed, here’s how to prepare for success.
- Notice that the fear, anger and disappointment you feel means you care. Focus on how much you care about this child right now.
- Remind yourself things often can get worse before they get better. Listening will feel worse to you in the short term, but it’s the first step in things getting better for you and your family in the long term.
- Take a deep breath. See if you can hear their hopes, wishes, pain as they talk. Take the vulnerable step to assume your child needs you to listen more than they need you to act right now. Once you better understand what they need to tell you, solutions will naturally bubble to the surface. If you first listen to understand, you’ll be more likely to act rather than react.
- Remember children are more likely to talk later if their parents listen first.
- Talk to a skilled counselor. I regularly help families prepare for these conversations and would be happy to help you to be your child’s best support system.
Contact me below to get your child and your family on the path to healing.