Another blocker for teaching communication, ironically, can be technology. One of the things that technology is supposed to do is make it easier for everyone to communicate. In fact through things like facebook and twitter we can be updated on even the small details of what is going on in each other’s lives. Through texting we can discreetly communicate small snippets of information. Even email has replaced most interoffice communication and the need for buying stamps. But with the need for instant communication we may be loosing the personal touch which comes with face to face communication. There was a time when you wouldn’t think of telling something important over the phone because it was too impersonal. Now we blast our important announcements over the social networks and twitter.
We need to be careful through all of this that our children don’t miss out on being taught how to communicate properly. If the only way they are learning to communicate is through text and tweets, they are seriously missing out. You cannot have a deeply heartfelt conversation about emotions through this venue. That training takes lots of time given by mom and dad. Make sure there are times of your day where there are “no cell phones allowed”, so your family can communicate to each other with some good old fashioned talking!
Yesterday we discussed how busy the day to day family life can be. We need to make each day count and not just live for the weekend or those vacation days. So often it is easy to pass the time or just attempt to relax in front of the TV. But this is another thing that can become a communication blocker if we don’t set up boundaries around it.
It can be a fun family night to pop popcorn and have a movie night. We cannot however depend on the television to be our only source of family entertainment. The family obviously won’t be communicating if they are all zoned out in front of the TV. Have a family game night when every one is done with their homework or think of another fun activity where the family can interact.
Another place the TV should not be allowed is the dinner table. Dinner can be a great segue from the craziness of everyone’s day into the relaxation of the evening. But if the TV is on, even in the background, it will distract everyone from talking about their day.
Fewer things get new parents into an argument faster than a discussion about the “family bed.” There are two extremes of thought on the topic of letting the baby stay in bed with you. This discussion might be controversial for you. Above all, it is our hope it will stimulate discussion. Each couple needs to talk through whether the baby should be in the bed of the parents and each couple needs to come to an agreement. Making these decisions unilaterally has put great strain on many marriages. Parents need to be in agreement on how these issues are to be dealt with and why.
One of the first opportunities for emancipation is when a child leaves his parent’s bed for their own crib/bed… and room. It is our opinion, for a healthy child, it should be sooner rather than later. As the child learns that mom and dad are not gone … but are still available, the much needed process of emancipation, and thus independence, begins. A child obviously cannot be in the parent’s room forever, it would not be healthy for the marriage or for the child. So parents need to be in agreement as to when and how this transition will happen. Something to keep in mind is, the longer a couple waits, the more difficult and traumatic the change may be for everyone.
These are family decisions that must be made not out of convenience. They should be made out of discussion and purpose. This can be one the early childhood development independence training opportunity. More than anything, both parents have to be ready and prepared for the transition.
Many people have jokingly said that nothing good can happen at such and such an hour of the morning. Ironically, in many cases that statement is very true. That is why it is so important to give your child a curfew. By giving this curfew you set up a boundary, set your child up for accountability and communicate that your child still reports to you even in this area.
It is amazing how many parents either do not give their child a curfew or an unbelievably late curfew. We need to remember that we are to set our child up for success and not failure.
Start small. Give an early curfew in the beginning so that as your child is successful at meeting the curfew you can make it later. Also keep in mind that the state has given most teenage drivers a curfew already.
Another benefit for a curfew is that you can wait up to meet your child. You must be able to do this to help hold your child accountable. This is also a great time to open the doors of communication. As they are coming off the emotion of the date you can be there to debrief them. This can really help to set you up as the go to person when they need help or have questions in their relationships.
Dating today doesn’t look at all like it did when we were teens. On some levels it appears very casual and on others very serious. The communication age has allowed for people in relationships to be in constant communication. This communication however, tends to be brief snippets through texting and IM. This means it is actually more difficult to truly get to know someone.
However, even in this casual, distance relationship era, sexual activity is rampant and very casual. “Hooking up” sexually is something that can happen for just a day with no relationship “necessary”. Casual sex is something that is pushed by media, schools and peers. This is why it is so important that we as parents get involved in this area of our kids lives. We have to help guide their decisions and be constantly aware of what is going on in this area. The destructive pattern of today’s teen dating can have emotional, physical and spiritual consequences. We absolutely must help our teens by discussing standards We also need to help them think through boundaries before they have to make those boundary decisions. Have discussions about the “what if this were to happen” scenarios. The next few days will be spent discussing how to set up standards and boundaries with your child.
It seems as though holding our children accountable is one of the things we do most as parents. We hold them accountable to get their homework done, clean their room and to do their best in school. The social scene is no different. Many parents may fear allowing their child the freedom of hanging out with friends because they have no idea how to hold them accountable to the family rules.
It’s really no different then how we train our small children. We apply the I.C.E plan. We need to Instruct our children as to how we expect them to act. We need to let them know the Consequences when the do not follow the rules set up. Then we must allow them the training opportunity to Exercise their options. The part we may feel helpless in, is how we know that they are behaving appropriately.
We have the responsibility to check in on our child, especially in the early days of allowing these freedoms. As a parent you are allowed to drive past Coldstone to make sure that your child is there and behaving appropriately. You are also allowed to go to the movie theater and make sure they are watching the movie they said they were going to see. Like we have said before your child needs to know that you care enough about them to make the effort to hold them accountable. It’s not about checking on them. It’s all about training them to be trustworthy. That’s a marriageable and employable characteristic.
It would be unwise for anyone to throw their child into the deep end of a pool and expect them to swim. Most of us are very conscious when it comes to water safety. We spend lots of time in swimming lessons or many hours teaching our children. We need to spend just as much conscious effort preparing them for the social scene. Just as you would not toss your child into a pool it is unwise to toss your child into the “deep end” of social scenarios until they have been allowed the practice.
Like we talked about last week there needs to be small freedoms allowed and when a child has proven trustworthy then a little more freedom is rewarded. An idea for a first baby step is allowing your child to have a sleep over with a trusted friend. Then maybe you all go to the mall and you allow a group of friends the freedom to go by themselves to get ice cream at the food court. If your child has proven trustworthy in these areas, like meeting up with you at the specified time, then you can move on to the next step. These steps may look different for each individual family and each individual child. The important thing to remember is allow your child to practice. Make sure you are clear on your expectations for their behavior and then hold them accountable.
Begin social interaction and the pre-dating process with “The Bulls Eye Approach”. This means that you start small and work your way out. Allow your child to practice by giving them small bits of trust. You begin by allowing your children a little bit of freedom. When they prove themselves trustworthy, for staying on track with their independence, you can allow them a little more freedom. For example, as your children get older you can allow them to ride their bikes in the neighborhood. (Obviously you don’t make any of these decisions hastily because your children’s safety needs to be your primary concern) Next you may allow them to ride their bike to the park in your neighborhood. You establish boundaries, such as a time to be home. “Hit the Bull’s Eye (ride your bike only where we said you should ride your bike and be home when we said you need to be home) and we’ll try this again. Miss the Bull’s Eye and we will know you aren’t ready to do this by yourself.
It is the parent’s responsibility to hold the child accountable. Take the car and make sure that they are at the park. If they are trustworthy and come home within the time frame they hit the Bully’s Eye and freedom is their reward. If they did not follow instructions then they need to have a consequence and until they can prove themselves trustworthy, no biking to the neighborhood park.
This training is all preparation for the years to come … for the things that require big trust, such as dating or going out with their friends. Through this experience you have shown them two things. You love them enough to be holding them accountable and you will be checking up on them. Being consistent in these two areas of your parenting will also communicate that you are trustworthy as well.
When it comes to preparing our children to go out with friends or dating, it all starts with a plan. If you’re reading this and your child is small, the temptation is to think that this article doesn’t apply to you, yet. Think again. This is the time to think and plan for the future. Otherwise this time of training will sneak up on you and you will be unprepared.
Sit down with your spouse, or if you are a single parent, a trusted friend who shares your convictions. Begin by setting age limits for various social activities. Decide what age you will allow your child to: go out with friends alone, date, go out with a friend driving, go on a date with a date driving, ect. These may seem simple, but if you wait to think through these parameters, your child will be asking permission before your prepared to give the answers. As those time periods approach sit down again and decide what your family social interaction rules are. Set up a list of rules and the consequences if those rules are broken. This way you can sit with your child and be able to talk to them about your expectations and consequences if they break the rules in these areas. This will begin to help set up an open communication about the potentially difficult and frustrating parenting decisions about your child’s social interactions away from home.