One of our basic needs as humans is to be heard. To feel validated, important, and that they are contributing something to others, is a gift that we can give our children as we parent them. We all set out with the desire that our children know they are loved. It is also critical to give our children “voice”.
What does it mean to give your child a voice?
As yourself these questions:
- If your child wants to share with you something that happened in his day, do you make time to listen?
- If your child wants to plead her case to you about something she desires, do you allow her to share?
- If your child has done something wrong, are you willing to delve deeper and find out what drove him to it – the feelings, the desires, maybe the hurts, the frustrations?
- Do you listen deeper than surface frustrations for your child’s feelings? Do you allow them to share feelings you wish they didn’t have?
- What is going on inside of you while your child is stepping up with her voice? Are you jumping to conclusions or working to come to your child with an empty slate to be filled by what he is sharing? Are you rushing your child to “get it out” or allowing space to process while communicating?
We are people, too, and we bring to our relationships with our children (and others) feelings, hurts, joys, etc. from our own childhood and beyond. The key is to recognize our own stuff and to also give our children space to be who they are and to grow.
Your child’s personality may be different from yours. Your child may be more “feeling” oriented than you. Your child may be a methodical processor. Some children are very black and white thinkers and have difficulty understanding anything outside those perimeters.
The key is that we learn how to let our children be who they are as we guide them. It is critical that we give them opportunity to have a “voice’. It is important that they feel they have something to contribute to the world, to family life, to us, as parents.
In our 26 years of raising children, we made many mistakes. However, by the grace of God, we learned to never give up and there is always hope. As our kids grew, they had more and more to say. They began to think for themselves. Even though we may not have agreed with everything, we learned to listen. Even though we may have gone into teaching mode when we disagreed, sometimes it was better just to listen. Just the other day, our hearts were warmed when our oldest, Katie, thanked us for giving her a voice while growing up. It is worth the hard work.
Question: What can you do today to begin the habit of giving your child voice?
Tom and Julie