LISTEN TO KIDS’ PERCEPTIONS
I am facilitating a conversation between a mother and
her teenage daughter. They had attended a counseling session
the previous evening to discuss blended-family issues. The
girl is guarded and seems discouraged. I ask the daughter
to tell me about the session.
With downcast eyes she replies that it probably did no
good. Her mother interrupts her to remind her how good it
could have been if only she would have opened up. I ask the
girl to describe her feelings about the roles each family
member had played in the session.
She tells me that’s all they were doing–playing roles.
Mother immediately contradicts her, protesting that everyone
was trying to be cooperative, not faking it at all. The girl
shuts down, clams up. We’ll get no more commemtary from her
How often do we claim our kids will not talk to us, or
even more commonly, that they will not listen? Do we lable
them moody or surly when grunts or even verbal abuse are
all we get when we try to communicate?
Kids say less and less as they realize each conversation
is another opportunity for parents to discredit them. We may
believe our kids’ ideas are harmful or even morally wrong but
we will never get that point across if they feel devalued
when we talk with them.
Have you ever casually offered, “It can’t be that bad!”
when your child expresses difficulties with social situations
or peer relations? Do you compare the awesome challenges of
your own childhood with their trivial concerns? Do you
diminish the importance of their fears, anger or
disappointments by calling them chronic complainers?
When adults talk “at” children rather than “with” them,
they can miss important information. Well-meaning attempts
to accentuate the positive or to encourage children to
challenge themselves and face their fears can cause kids to
stifle their attempts at self-expression. Pushing your own
perceptions too strongly can suffocate the growth of your