Your teenage daughter has her first boyfriend.
Your child is not happy about her weight.
You overhear your kids fighting about something.
What do you do when you have the urge to give your child advice?
If you’re like most of the parents I’ve worked with, you jump right in. You feel it’s your duty to share information that only you, as a parent, could know. You want to help. You want to save your child from unnecessary pain and trouble.
So you do it. You give them your opinion, tell them how to solve the problem, warn them against things they should or shouldn’t try.
But how often does this work?
How often does your child say, “Gee, mom, you’re right! I never looked at it that way. Let me go and try that approach right now.”
Most of the time, I’m guessing your efforts to give your kids advice falls flat. They either turn away before you’ve finished a sentence, sulk, or do the very opposite of what you’ve suggested.
When this happens, your focus shifts to: “Why doesn’t my child listen? Why is she so unappreciative of my efforts?”
Likely, you’ll blame yourself and have something new to fight about.
Result: your wise words don’t get across, and both of you have to live with the consequences.
But what you’re missing is that HOW you approach your child makes all the difference.
The truth is that if you’re coming at your kid and shoving advice down her throat, her instinct will be to turn away.
I call this dynamic of inserting your opinion when your child isn’t receptive, “crashing the party.”
It’s a natural law that what we push against will push away from us. Your child is biologically programmed to resist you when you are coming AT him.
Think about how you feel when you walk into a store—just wanting to browse—and a salesperson follows you around like a shadow. “Can I help you? Let me tell you about today’s special sale!”
Even if you were planning on purchasing, now your attention is diverted by pushy sales tactics and an intrusion in your space.
The same thing happens when you push an agenda on your child. He will feel all his defenses come up and feel compelled to push against you, even if he was already considering what you were advising.
By forcing your opinion on your child, you’re communicating a lack of respect and trust. I know you’re not doing this on purpose—your intent is to love and protect. But that’s not what your child experiences.
When you implore your child to heed your words or take your approach when she hasn’t asked for it, you are essentially saying that she’s incapable of making her own decisions.
And quite possibly, she is.
She really may not know what is best for her at this time. But your goal as a parent is to steer her toward self-reliance and self-trust, and she’s not going to get there if you jump in and try to live her life for her.
Especially as children move into adolescence, their developmental imperative is to differentiate—and one of the ways they establish their own identity is to be different from you. Again, they may do this even if they WANT to do what you want.
She may start smoking with her friends even though she hates the taste, but guess what? Her friends aren’t giving her lectures. She may go too far with her boyfriend even if she’s scared, but this guy makes her feel loved and understood.
When you stop to think about how peer pressure happens, you realize a lot has to do with making your child yearn for understanding and acceptance. It’s your choice whether you want this to come from you or someone else.
If you’re always coming AT your child with unsolicited advice, your child can decide that he’s just going to hate everything you want.
It’s a way for him to protect his need for differentiation, autonomy, and respect.
The way around this? You come ALONGSIDE your child.
For instance, instead of jumping in with your opinion on a certain issue your child is struggling with, you could try:
“I have some thoughts on that, would you like to hear them?”
When you come ALONGSIDE your child in this way, you’re accomplishing multiple wins with one strike: you’re empowering him, trusting him, and allowing him to make a choice.
It’s showing respect without crashing the party.
It’s also an enormous opportunity for connection.
See, connection—or attachment—is THE most important factor in the relationship you have with your child. When your child is properly attached, he’ll be much more open to taking your advice, cooperating with you, and following your lead.
In my program Parenting Without Bargains, Battles or Bribes, I show you how to come ALONGSIDE your child rather than AT him. It’s a counterintuitive approach that gets you completely different results.
In the program, I’ll teach you proven techniques for strengthening the attachment with your child, along with specific scripts you can use for even the trickiest situations that will inevitably come up as your child develops.
You’ll also learn why you must avoid being perceived as a “needy” parent. You’re needy when you’re imploring your child to take advice, or when you require him to do something a specific way. Any perceived neediness will automatically place your child in the defensive position, and she’s likely to go against your advice, even if this is not what she was planning.
My program will give you practical techniques for how to obtain respect and cooperation without this dangerous dynamic:Watch Now
No matter where you are on your parenting journey, you can strengthen the connection with your child and, by default, the willingness to cooperate. It’s never too late.
When you come alongside rather than at her, you will reach her heart and in turn open her up to your influence. It’s a win-win, and it’s a whole lot more fun.
P.S. If you feel the need to give your kids advice, one of the most important things you can do is to ask yourself where your need to give advice is coming from. Usually, parents want to give advice to quell their own anxiety or because they feel giving advice makes them more valued as a parent.
In Parenting Without Bargains, Battles or Bribes, you’ll develop the kind of self-awareness that makes you a better parent while simultaneously healing you of your own “issues”:A Gateway To Personal Growth