Something has been sitting heavy on my heart and after chatting with a few other parents, I realized I'm not alone. I'm worried about what our kids are seeing.
It began last winter (2020) when all the chatter of covid 19 began. If you listened to the news there were people saying it's a pandemic and others saying it's nothing more than the flu. Time and again, you'd see grown-ups arguing their point of view and placing blame with little time taken for the sake of finding common ground (we are dealing with something that will affect each and every family.).
Add to that the political debates. Snarky comments and half-truths were being thrown around like it was a gathering of middle school mean girls. I remember telling my husband, "This feels so unproductive. Can't any of them state their position without tearing someone else down in the process?"
The summer was filled with grown adults yelling at each other, destroying things, and people justifying poor behavior (on both sides). It happened again a few weeks ago and once again our kids are seeing repeated coverage of adults gathering and destroying things that aren't theirs. All I could think of is, "What are our kids learning?"
As a parenting coach, one of my favorite topics is effective communication. How do we share our thoughts and feelings, how do we listen to someone else's thoughts and feelings and how do we blend things so we have a positive family dynamic?
I think we can all agree that the examples above show we have lost the art of communicating.
The sad part is, we tell our kids to "use kind words" and "try to talk things out" and yet the adults are failing miserably in modeling this! How can we tell our kids to be kind when all they see on social media is the complete opposite being normalized?
I'm sorry if this is coming off preachy, that's not my intent at all. My mom heart hurts for parents who are trying to raise their kids well in a world that feels upside down. My Nana heart hurts that this is the stuff my sweet grandbaby was born into.
So, what can we do to shift the tide?
Well, first of all...
Become aware of our own behavior.
Do we mean tweet at perfect strangers? Does it help you feel better or raise your stress levels? Is this something we would be proud of if we knew our kids were doing the same thing?
Our words and our actions need to match up for our kids to learn the right lessons. Will we occasionally rant? Sure, we all do! Then we have to take a breath and ask, "How is my reaction helping the situation?" or "How can I chose to react that will be a good model for our kids?"
Teach our kids how to identify emotions
It is so helpful to start associating words with feelings early on for our kiddos. When kids are aware of how their body is reacting and can identify it with a word, "My stomach hurts and my heart is racing. This thing feels scary to me."
Empower kids with skills
Teaching kids how to appropriately deal with their feelings is an important part of helping them become mature adults. When kids are young, we help them by
1. Identifying their feelings
2. Explaining why their behavior was a poor choice and tie it into a family value ("When you bite your sister it really hurt her and it is not okay to hurt someone.')
3. Help them choose better options.
As kids get a little older we help them by developing their problem-solving skills...creative brain-storming and evaluating each idea:
1. What are some other things you could have done in this situation?
2. What would have happened if you made that choice?"
The last part of this is communicating an apology if needed, then making restitution. " I'm sorry I broke your bike. I will see if I can help you fix it or use my allowance to help pay for the repairs."
I'm sad to say, at the moment our kids are seeing adults yell and scream and NOT listen effectively. It is only when we LISTEN TO LEARN, NOT TO LECTURE that we actually work towards finding common ground and a solution.
So while you're modeling good communication habits at home, it may also be helpful to limit how much screen time your kids have and to address the behaviors they are seeing through the lenses of your family's values.
If you found this blog helpful, please forward it to others! The more we begin practicing more effective communication habits, the sooner we all begin to have better conversations that will lead to problem-solving together.
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