Listen. Just listen.
Today I decided to write specifically about our daughters. And about our mothers.
When I was growing up, I didn’t think a lot about what my mother was going through.
Now I wonder: When I was a senior, did she worry about my driving? Did she worry about who I dated? Did she experience an empty nest?
In short, did she worry about what I worry about almost every minute of the day?
It makes me wonder: Is there a universal language moms speak in their heads?
We worry about our kids. We wonder what they’re thinking. We agonize over what we need to teach them. Quite often we have imaginary conversations in our heads with them.
And then when the time does come to talk, we often talk too much. I know I tuned my own mom out. I am certain my kids tune me out too.
So, how do we communicate as our daughters get older?
Years after my own mom is gone, I realize what she did best to parent me. So often, she didn’t talk. She listened. As I got older she talked less and listened more.
Should we talk it out?
I know for a fact that women like to talk things out. In fact, women often need to talk things out with someone else before they decide how to feel about a subject. Women need to find someone to listen and respond appropriately.
As a mom, I want to get better with the listening part. I want to encourage my children to talk to me, as teenagers, as college students, and as adults. I have had over 15 years to talk “to” them and “at” them; now I need to talk “with” them.
Three things I know for sure about communicating with older children:
First, talking is productive because it brings us closer to an understanding of each other. Talking it out is a good thing.
My friend Steve is a certified life coach. He went to school and learned to be a good listener. The key to being a great coach is to know the right questions to ask. This allows the person being coached (the “PBC”) to answer their own questions. It’s so much more powerful to find the answers to our own questions rather than receiving advice!
Second, listen to your children without judgment.
I know what you’re saying: “How in the world do I manage that?” It’s one of our hardest jobs as parents.
So often as soon as my daughter gets her first sentence out, I panic. I am quick to jump in with a solution or a judgment. Here’s a clue: That’s not listening. Even when her words send terror through me, I know the more I can listen before responding, the better the result will be.
Sometimes just watching your child work through a problem on their own is actually enjoyable. You see growth and maturity happen right before your eyes. And as Martha Stewart would say, “That’s a good thing.”
Third, talking it out allows you to offer options, not solutions.
“Have you thought about ____?” Sometimes now I even offer extreme options, just so my child can learn to sort through the bizarre and arrive at the rational. The right solution that works for me may not work for them. That’s (usually) ok.
The Right Questions to Ask
Once kids start high school, all “mom talk” should be about questions.
I am not talking about the kind that starts with “Where have you been?” or “What have you been doing?” Instead, try open-ended questions like “What do YOU think?” or “What do you think is the best way to handle that situation?” or “Why do you think your friend made that decision?”
Hint: Take it easy on the “why” questions. It will cause your daughter to get defensive.
As kids turn 18, it’s time to stop being a referee in the game judging the plays. It’s time to be their coach on the sidelines calling the plays and their fan in the stands.
Good luck. I know you can do it!
Use the comment section below to share about your conversations with your daughter(s). What worked? What didn’t?