Communication as a parent


Published: 6 Jun 2020


For many modern-day parents, they have absolutely no trouble ‘staying present’. Present is all they can cope with. They live from activity to activity. Chore to chore. Trying to find more balance than a trapeze artist.

In a class I ran on humanity in communication in 2018 I asked a big question at the start of my humanity class – Why are we here? One of the answers is often “to procreate”.

So, if we’re here to bring forth the next generation how do you think we are doing?

I like to start with big questions.

How long is your relationship with your children going to be?

Many of you reading this may be in your 30’s and 40’s. If so, you have another 40-50 years with your children AFTER they have left home.

That first decade after they go is the weirdest. You are regaining your life as a person or couple. If you’ve not worked on being a loving couple during that time….. you are stuffed. It’s harder to get back love, kindness, appreciation, and connection – if you’ve not been working on it in the interim.

NZ has one of the highest divorce rates in the world per population and less and less people are getting married – so what that means logically is that it is couples who are together now who are getting divorced! The average according to stats NZ is when you are age 45 and your oldest child is 10. If you’ve been together over 20 years at that point the stats are even worse that your relationship won’t last.

So, how do we keep our relationships and build a future proofed relationship with our children?

It’s simple. We EARN it!

This generation (and the previous two) have changed the game for parents after the kids leave home, and here’s why – they don’t feel the need to do the ‘duty’ call.

You may remember being marched to your grandmas every Wednesday night whether you wanted to go or not. That is off the table for most people in the younger generations due to geography or will. If you want to see or hear from your kids after they’ve gone you have to have built a connection to them before they leave. They have to have feelings about you, and memories that make them want to connect.

So, 40-50 years what’s your final outcome? That you all still love each other?

Outcome in the first decade after they’ve gone? Based on your behaviour, actions and language right now, how confident are you in your future relationship. What have you built to keep them close to you emotionally even if not geographically?

There’s so much talk about todays’ generations in the press and on social media. Some good. Some bad. But, here’s something I want you to keep in mind. The human race learns as much from what didn’t work for them as much as it did. So, just because it’s your theory, your way (as it probably was your parents) it doesn’t mean it will feel right, fair, or reasonable to your children. A role model is ultimately only a role model if someone wants to emulate it.

The other mind-blowing realisation for some parents (but not all) is that kids communicate with you the way YOU showed them to. I’ll repeat that. YOU showed them!

So, if you are whinging about a kid that talks down to you or shouts at you – guess what?

The good news communication starts and ends with you. The bad news……

What can you do?

Learn to control and send back the pings.

The whole concept of my model for compassionate assertiveness is based on who pings you and how you are pinged. When I explain about pings and then ask kids “What do you think a ping is, if I said to you someone pinged you?”

Without exception kids use body language instantly. They touch their heart, their gut.

When I asked them to use words to describe what a ping feels and sounds like they say things like: mean, shouty.

As grown-ups we deal with pings every day. In traffic, in queues when we have to wait for a nano-second. When someone at work talks down to you. Pings are different for every person in intensity and frequency. The ideal of course is not getting pinged at all, but hey we live with billions of other little pingers. And, don’t forget that you ping your kids too!

One choice (as repellent as it may be for some) is that you have a choice – you can just let it go. But, in compassionate assertiveness when you let it go, it is REALLY gone. You can’t get it out of the ping cupboard later and re-hash it with a friend or your partner…or kid!

The other option is to send the ping back. Because when the ping stays with you it’s like a tin can full of pebbles for every ping. It rattles around inside you creating an inner monologue, the background narrative to other things that you are doing when you should be present. How long the pings stays with you is up to you.

The only way to send the ping back is by ASKING MORE QUESTIONS

Anything else – judgement, whinging, nagging, preaching, lecturing, opinions, moralisation is invisible at best. Dis—connecting at worst. When you ask a question to a child (or anyone) instead of a statement you make them accountable, involved. It’s a fair fight at least because they have to analyse their own behaviour – and so do you!

If you are reading this and looking for the ‘quick fix’. Here it is:

Stop being busy. Busy isn’t clever anymore. It was clever for a nano second in the 90’s. Nowadays it probably just means you’re inefficient, someone is missing out on your time, or someone else needs to step up and take some of your stuff off your hands.

Everything you do or say with your kid every day matters. Future proof your relationship with them……and start today!