Last Saturday I was preparing to teach a 4 hour parent workshop in a small church in Antelope, CA when a high school girl came Kaitlyn walked up to me with her friend and said, “Are you the guy that’s going to be training our parents?”
How’s that for a loaded question?
I smiled and said, “Yep, that’s me. Got any suggestions?”
She said, “As a matter of fact, I wrote a list of things that you should address.” She returned the smile and handed me a sheet of paper with 7 points handwritten in blue pen.
I quickly looked over her 7 pieces of advice for parents and asked her, “Can we look at some of these right now?” Kaitlyn agreed.
I read #1 out loud:
1. Do not wake up kids anytime before 9AM on Saturday.
My eyes looked up at her from her list, “What time did they wake you up this morning?”
Her eyebrows furrowed. “8 AM.”
I nodded disapprovingly. “Sinful! Every parent should know better than that. Let’s look at #2.”
2. Do not talk down to their kids.
I asked Kaitlyn. Give me an example.
Without hesitation, Kaitlyn’s friend blurted out, “Why aren’t you ever home! Why don’t you do your chores!”
With equal speed I inquired back, “Do you do your chores? Are you ever home?”
“Yes, and no.” She replied candidly. “Sometimes I do my chores, but I don’t want to be home because they’re always yelling at me.”
“Hmmmmm.” I stroked my chin. “So how do you wish they’d communicate with you when you don’t do what you’re supposed to?”
Kaitlyn interjected, “They can talk with me like I’m an adult you know!”
The conversation went on for about 5 minutes as people were finishing setup for the workshop. It was a fun interaction. The encounter with Kaitlyn and her friend kept the “teenage perspective” fresh in my mind, warming me up for the parenting workshop.
A few hours into the workshop I read Kaitlyn’s list to the parents and we talked about some of them. One thing we noticed was an underlying desire for conversation rather than overreaction. And her point #7 surprised many of the parents- a call for consistancy from us in discipline. I addressed both of these issues in the workshop.
Here’s her entire list- exactly as written by Kaitlyn.
1. Do not wake up kids anytime before 9:00 AM on Saturday.
2. Do not talk down to your kids.
3. Grounding does not work.
4. Your family is a team, not a government.
5. Ask God for help when you need it.
6. Don’t argue with your kids. Discuss, and assist the situation.
7. Stay firm to what you say.
I love Kaitlyn’s aspiration for conversation. Yes, I wouldn’t agree with everything Kaitlyn said here, but the point is… this is her perspective. This is what she’s feeling. There’s a lot to learn here.
A few months ago my daughter Alyssa was really frustrated with me because I wouldn’t let her go somewhere with her friends. She ended up stomping off, calling me unfair and marching to her room. A half hour later I talked with her about the situation. I asked her to do something. I gave her a piece of paper and told her to write out, “I wish my dad would just…” and write as many of those as she wanted. I told her, “Tomorrow, when we go out for breakfast, I’ll listen to each one of these.” (We go out to breakfast once a week- just me and Lyssy)
I actually describe the whole incident in my upcoming parenting book so I won’t spoil it here. But it was a fantastic conversation. She expressed things to me that I needed to hear. And, after I truly listened to her feelings, she readily accepted where I had to put the foot down and just say, “Sorry, you’re not going to do that.”
It was really a landmark moment in our relationship. And it started with me truly listening to her perspective.
I look forward to talking more on this subject to many of you in my parent workshops at your churches this year.
What do you notice from Kaitlyn’s list?
What can you do to better hear your kids’ perspective?