“That’s baaaad!” I’ll never forget how amazing we thought we were, because our parents had to keep asking if we meant “bad, bad” or “good, bad” when we told them something was “bad”.
Each generation has its own slang terms that change as soon as adults start understanding and using the words. It’s just part of establishing a healthy distance between parents and their kids.
There are some communication issues though, that can end up damaging and even breaking the parent/child bond. The relationship between parents and their kids changes somewhat as kids mature and become adults. At every stage, healthy communication can allow important conversations to be heard and even heeded.
Miscommunication on the other hand, can cause problems that are common in many homes. Not only can it cause rifts in the parent/child relationship, but miscommunication can also make parenting unnecessarily difficult.
So what are these common issues?
- Failing to clarify what your child means. Children often hear things and repeat them without understanding all of the words or the possible meanings of what they are saying. Or they may be trying to communicate what is on their hearts and minds without really having the vocabulary to express it accurately. They also don’t understand there are certain “hot button” words that can cause someone to become emotional. When your child says something you don’t like, ask a few questions. “What do you mean by that?”, said in a non-threatening tone can give you crucial information. Likewise, “Do you understand what that word really means?”, has cured many a child of cursing. If necessary, repeat back their explanation in your own words to be sure you are thoroughly understanding what they meant. Only then, can you really correct any possible issues with what was said. Otherwise, you may spend a lot of unnecessary time and angst over a misunderstanding.
- Clarifying what you mean. You told your child you wanted her to clean her room, but an hour later it still looks like a disaster area. Did you carefully explain what it means to have a clean room? We forget, kids need to be intentionally taught many things. Just because they have watched you clean the den five million times, doesn’t mean they have connected the dots to know they need to do all of those same things to clean the den. You can save a lot of arguments and lectures, by making sure your kids understand specifically what you need them to do and how they are to do it. It’s also important to clarify meaning if you see your child begin to be upset by something you said. Make sure they weren’t adding something you didn’t mean into what you just said.
- Speaking in anger. I get it. Sometimes your kids will do things that just make you want to explode. We’ve all been there. If you are extremely angry, often it’s best to calm yourself before correcting your kids and giving consequences. If not, you can often say things you didn’t mean or give consequences that are too harsh for what happened. This is yet another time and relationship saver as you don’t have to go back and undo the damage your temper caused.
- Asking what slang means. By the time television, magazines and other parent sources of information pick up on a slang term, it’s probably already waning in popularity. When your kids use a slang term, ask them what it means. Yes, they will roll their eyes at your ignorance. It’s important to be well informed though (ask your kids’ friends if they won’t tell you), so you can understand if your kids are involved in things that are not in their best interests. The same holds true for emoji’s and text abbreviations. Being able to understand what your kids are saying to peers is a crucial skill set for parents.
- Using the latest technology your kids are using. You don’t necessarily need to have the latest version of the iPhone. You do however, need to be able to receive communication from your kids in the ways they are most comfortable in communicating. When texting first became popular, it was amazing how many parents refused to get phones that would accept texts. They couldn’t seem to understand why the parents who texted heard from their kids so much more than they did as they waited for their phones to ring. Once again, if your own kids won’t teach you how to use the most recent communication app, teach yourself or get one of their friends to teach you.
- If they aren’t initiating communication with you, you need to initiate communication with them. This one is huge. So many parents and grandparents allow zero communication because the child didn’t initiate it. Kids and teens are busy. They get distracted. They feel awkward. Often they would happily communicate with a relative, if the relative initiates the communication. If communication has been sparse, be prepared with not only questions, but also things to share from your own life. Ask what they think about some current event or something someone well known said about an issue. Ask their opinion on what phone you should buy. In other words, have things to talk about in mind before you initiate a conversation. Otherwise, they may feel they are being grilled or the conversation will have long awkward pauses because no one can think of anything to say. Don’t complain if your child or grandchild never “calls”, if you aren’t doing your part by contacting them regularly. (If they say they are “too busy”, ask them for a good time to call when they can talk for a few minutes.)
Good communication with your kids may seem like a lot of work. In reality, it can save you a lot of time and heartache. Taking the time to correct the communication issues above will make your parenting a lot easier than if you allow them to continue. It really is worth your time and effort!