What To Do When Kids Fight?

Let’s accept one thing. Conflicts are inevitable. Disagreements are bound to arise. Children cannot avoid conflict, nor should they avoid conflict by always giving in. As their parents, teachers/caregivers, we can help them manage the level their conflicts escalate to. More importantly, we can help them manage how they resolve their conflicts.

Some parents/teachers punish the “perpetrator” because he was the one who started it. But that overlooks the possibility that there is an underlying reason that needs addressing. Some parents/teachers punish both, or all, children involved regardless of who started it since it takes two or more to tango. But that creates resentment because a child could just be protecting herself yet she was punished for it. So what can we do when children fight? We teach them how to resolve their conflict, of course. But how?  Here is an example of how to intervene in our children’s conflicts.

A parent hears her two children arguing and fighting. She refrains from intervening to allow the children the opportunity to resolve the issue themselves. When the fight becomes physical, a boundary has been crossed and that is when she decides to intervene.

1) Set Boundaries For Their Words and Actions

When children fight, they can be really mean and spiteful. The first thing we do is to set boundaries for what is acceptable and unacceptable behaviour.

Child 1:     You are always so rude!
Child 2:     You are a selfish brat!
Both:         (physically hit each other)
Parent:     Alright, both of you. You need to stop. Both of you are really upset with each other. I can hear you arguing from the other side of the house and I see you two physically fighting when I got here. In this household, we treat one another with respect. We do not hit, nor do we call one another mean names.  What happened?

Why do this? When we clearly state the boundaries for their words and actions, we reinforce what is acceptable behaviour and what isn’t.  By calmly intervening and asking what happened, we role model the behaviour of not jumping into conclusion but seeking clarifications first.

2) Listen to Each Child Without Judgment

Like us, children have reasons for behaving the way they do. Their reasons may not be sound to us. Nonetheless, those reasons have triggered them to behave the way they did. Hence it is important to hear them out. Listen to each child as he/she tells us what happened. Practice active listening by reflecting back what they have told us to ensure we have accurately understood what they have said. It is important to listen impartially to their accounts so they will be open in what they tell us.

Parent:     (To Child 1) Tell me what happened.
Child 1:     He couldn’t find his ruler so he took mine. He did not even ask me if he could! Then he broke it!
Parent:     He took your ruler without your permission when he couldn’t find his. Then he broke your ruler. Is that what happened?
Child 1:     Yes.
Parent:     Thank you for sharing your point of view.

Parent:     (To Child 2) Your sister said you took her ruler without her permission and you broke it. What happened?
Child 2:     She hid my ruler because she was upset I used it to tap on the table.
Child 1:     He was so irritating.
Parent:     (to Child 1) It is his turn to talk. I will come back to you later. Please let him finish. (Back to Child 2) Please continue.
Child 2:     So I took her ruler. Then she threw her eraser at me because I took her ruler. That made me so angry I clenched my fists and broke her ruler. Then she hit me.
Parent:     You took her ruler without asking because she hid yours to stop you from using it to tap on the table. When she threw her eraser at you, you got so angry you broke her ruler. Then she hit you. Is that correct?
Child 2:     Yes.
Parent:     Thank you for sharing your point of view.

Parent:     (To Child 1) Your brother said he took your ruler without asking because you hid his. Is that right?
Child 1:     Yes. I was trying to read my book and he was making so much noise.
Parent:     Thank you.

Why do this? While this looks time consuming, it is an extremely important first step to conflict resolution. When each child feels his side of the story is heard without judgment, he becomes less defensive. The time consuming questioning is deliberate as it allows both angry children to breathe, calm down and think clearly.

3) Help Each Child Reflect On Where His/Her Anger Got Him/Her

Once we have established what happened from the children, help them see where their emotions got them.

Parent:     (To Child 1) How did you feel when he was tapping his ruler on the table while you were reading?
Child 1:     I was very irritated. I was getting a headache from all that noise.
Child 2:     But you didn’t say anything!
Parent:     (To Child 2) It’s her turn to talk. Please wait for your turn. (To Child 1) Please continue.
Child 1:     So when he went to the bathroom, I kept his ruler.
Parent:     What happened after that?
Child 1:     He couldn’t find his ruler and he took mine.
Parent:     How did you feel then?
Child 1:     I got angry. He is always taking my things without my permission.
Parent:     You got angry. What did you do then?
Child 1:     I threw my eraser at him.
Parent:     Hmm, and he broke your ruler after that.
Child 1:     Yes! I got so mad. That’s my only ruler and he broke it!
Parent:     You got so mad you hit him.
Child 1:     Yes. He deserved it.
Parent:     Thank you for letting me know how you feel. What did you do when you were irritated by his tapping?
Child 1:     I tried to cover my ears with my pillow.
Parent:     Why do you think he took your ruler?
Child 1:     Because he couldn’t find his.
Parent:     Why do you think he broke your ruler?
Child 1:     Because he was mean.
Parent:     Would he have broken your ruler if you didn’t throw the eraser at him?
Child 1:     Maybe.
Parent:     But after you threw the eraser at him, would it make him angry enough to do something, like breaking your ruler?
Child 1:     Yes.

Parent:     (To Child 2) How did you feel when you couldn’t find your ruler?
Child 2:     I knew she had taken it. She took my ruler without my permission. So I just took her ruler. She started taking without permission first.
Parent:     You felt she deserved to be punished so you took her ruler too.
Child 2:     Yes.
Parent:     Why do you think she threw her eraser at you?
Child 2:     Because she is being selfish. She cannot share.
Parent:     How did you feel when she took your ruler without asking?
Child 2:     Upset.
Parent:     You felt upset when she took your ruler without asking.  How do you think she felt when you took her ruler without asking?
Child 2:     Maybe she felt upset too.
Parent:     You were angry when she threw her eraser. Would she have thrown her eraser if you hadn’t taken her ruler without her permission?
Child 2:     No.
Parent:     Would you have broken her ruler if she hadn’t thrown the eraser at you?
Child 2:     No. I have no intention of breaking her ruler at all. I just needed to use it.
Parent:     Let me see if I got this right.  You felt that she deserved to be punished for hiding your ruler so you took her ruler.  But that triggered her to throw her eraser at you which then made you so angry you broke her ruler. What happened after you broke her ruler in anger?
Child 2:     She hit me.

Why do this? This extended conversation allows the children to see how each of their self righteous or angry decision lead from one thing to another. In addition, it also gives the children an opportunity to hear the other side of the story and the reasons behind the emotions and actions the other party exhibited. Just so we are clear, doing so does not  justify their behavior. Instead, we are allowing them to help the other party understand their reactions and letting them understand how their behavior affect one another. This reflection is important as it will help them learn to think through their actions in the future. It will also help them develop social intelligence on why others behave the way they do.

4) Help Each Child Reflect On How The Other Child Felt

After each child has had the opportunity to share why they felt the way they did, and reflect on how their emotions led to the series of events, it is time to help them see things from the other perspective.

Parent:     (To Child 1) How do you think your brother felt when he couldn’t find his ruler after his bathroom break?
Child 1:     Frustrated. He probably knew I took it.
Parent:     How do you think he felt when you threw the eraser at him?
Child 1:     Angry.
Parent:     How do you think he felt when you hit him?
Child 1:     Even angrier.
Parent:     Thank you for putting yourself in his shoes.

Parent:     (To Child 2) How do you think your sister felt when you were tapping your ruler?
Child 2:     She said she was irritated but I was concentrating on my school work and not paying attention to her. I really didn’t know it was bothering her.
Parent:     No need to justify your action, thank you. How do you think she felt when you took her ruler without asking?
Child 2:     She probably didn’t like it. She’s very protective of her belongings.
Parent:     How do you think she felt when she you broke her ruler?
Child 2:     Very mad.
Parent:     Thank you for thinking about how she felt.

Why do this? When children put themselves in the shoes of the other person, it allows them to develop empathy for how the other person feels.

5) Help Them Brainstorm For Peaceful Solutions

After the children have had the chance to think through the impact of their emotions and actions, as well as put themselves in the shoes of the other person, it is timely to help them brainstorm peaceful solutions to prevent a similar occurrence.

Parent:     (To Child 1) What would you do differently next time when your brother does something that bothers you, like tapping his ruler?
Child 1:     I will let him know the sound bothers me.

Parent:     (To Child 2) What would you do when your sister tells you that something you are doing is bothering her?
Child 2:     I will stop.
Parent:     What will you do when you need to borrow something from your sister?
Child 2:     I will ask her for permission first.

Parent:     (To Child 1) What will you do if your brother forgot to ask you for permission before borrowing your things?
Child 1:     I will remind him. I will also try to be generous and share even if he doesn’t ask for my permission, though I would still very much like him to ask first.

Parent:     (To Child 2) Now that you have broken your sister’s ruler, what are you going to do about it?
Child 2:     I will buy her another one to replace it.

Parent:     (To both children) Do you both have anything to say to each other?
Child 1:     I’m sorry for everything, especially for hitting you.
Child 2:     I’m sorry for taking your ruler and breaking it.
Parent:     Thank you both for working through this peacefully. Please remember to put yourselves in each other’s shoes more in the future.

Why do this? This process helps them to be more empathetic and to de-escalate and brainstorm for solutions in the future by themselves. By thinking about how their actions affect the other person, it helps them develop regulate their own emotions and impulse control.

“But This Is So Time Consuming!”

Some of you might be thinking, “But this is too time consuming! I just want my children to stop fighting RIGHT NOW.”

My humble suggestion is to give it a try several times. My children are able to work through most of their conflicts with each other themselves using the same technique. They learned to tell the other sibling how they felt when that other sibling did something that upset them. Many times, the irritations were unintentional and as a result of that communication, the conflicts de-escalated very quickly. More often than not, they would receive an apology. While I still need to intervene occasionally, my involvement in their conflicts have reduced dramatically.

Children are not naturally mean. They just need to be guided on how to manage their conflicts. And as their parents, caregivers and teachers, it is our responsibility to help them through the process of conflict management in a peaceful manner. Needless to say, it is also very important for us, as adults, to manage conflicts peacefully ourselves. The children under our care are always watching what we do.

What peaceful interventions do you use when your children fight?

– Vivian –

 

8 Ways To Help Siblings Get Along

 

One of the most common problems parents face is the difficulty in having their children get along harmoniously. Conflicts exist in ALL relationships because disagreements are inevitable. Hence it is unrealistic to expect our children to ALWAYS get along. However, we can help our children reduce the frequency and intensity of their conflicts by helping them build a more harmonious relationship with one another.

Here are 8 ways we can achieve that.

1) Spend Uninterrupted Time With Each Child Daily

Let each child know he has a special place in our hearts. Children who are loved and feel secure tend to fight less. Spend 15-20 minutes of uninterrupted time with each child daily. If we have little ones who nap, we can spend a little of that time to interact individually with the older ones who no longer nap. Or if our kids are older and can be left at home on their own, go to the grocery store with one of them. Or prepare a meal together. Steal little pockets of time throughout the day to spend one-on-one time with each of our children. Ask them what was difficult for them that day. Listen to how their day went. And remember to tell each and every one of them, “I love you” DAILY. Not just a cursory “love ya”, but a look-them-in-the-eye, I-am-serious, “I love you”.

2) Create An Appreciative Environment At Home

Sometimes children get so caught up in the little fights they have with their siblings they forget the goodness in one another. Create opportunities constantly for them to remind themselves how much they appreciate one another. One way to do this is to have everyone takesturns saying something appreciative or positive about everyone else in the family during dinner. Not only will the person expressing appreciation have increased feelings of positivity towards the others, the one at the receiving end feels good and appreciated. Mutual feelings of positivity increase connectedness. When there is connectedness, there is more empathy and less reason to fight.

3) Be Watchful For Positive Interaction

As the saying goes, “The squeaky wheel gets the grease”. As parents, we tend to “ignore” our children when they are getting along. But when they start fighting, we would miraculously materialise to stop their fights. So sometimes children unconsciously fight to get our attention. To avoid that, take time to praise them and catch them when they are interacting and playing well together. Be on the lookout for moments when they are cooperating or helping one another and thank them for doing so. When they know they get positive attention from us when they get along, there are fewer reasons for them to fight and get our negative attention.

4) Never Compare The Child

Comparison sours relationships. The child who gets compared poorly against another child, or worse, her own sibling, will grow to resent that other child. Or the child who gets compared favourably against another child, especially her own sibling, will feel superior and behave in that manner to that other child. Either way, resentment or superiority does not support collaborative or peaceful relationships. Treat each child as the special being that she is. Acknowledge her strengths without putting down another person and develop her weaknesses without showing her up against someone else. When our children do not feel they are better or worse than another child, they will have more harmonious relationships with one another.

5) Help Them See One Another As Their Teachers

When someone irritates us, we can either choose to be frustrated, or think about what we can learn from that someone. If one child is testing the patience of another, help the other child see it as an opportunity for him to learn how to stop the “perpetrator” peacefully. AND teach the child who is irritating the other that he is learning self-control to stop being irritating. The more children learn to see others as their teachers, the more ownership they have in learning their lessons. They will stop seeing themselves as victims of others (eg “he was testing my patience”) or victims of circumstances (eg “it was a wonderful opportunity to tease him”). Helping them see one another as their teachers allow them to reduce the animosity of their fights and turn them into lessons for learning instead.

6) Stop Tattletaling

While it is helpful to have a child who toes the line and obeys all rules, it is detrimental to let that child become the rule-upholder of the family. Tattletaling hurts sibling relationships. As parents, we can thank the tattletaler for knowing the rules well but let her know that turning in her siblings betrays their trust in her. Refrain from disciplining the other children who were told upon. When we discourage tattletaling, our children will learn to trust one another more. With increased trust, their relationship will improve and they will get along better.

7) Role Model Conflict Resolution

Actions speak louder than words. To teach our children how to resolve their conflicts peacefully, we need to role model that for them. What do our children see and hear when someone cuts into our lane when we are driving? Do we curse the inconsiderate driver and blast our horn? What will our children learn instead if we wonder out loud, “That person seems to be in a hurry. We can let him go ahead of us.” Or “I wish I can let that person cut in, but we’re really in a big hurry.” Our children are also watching our day-to-day interaction at home. What do we do when we have a disagreement with our spouse? Do we shout our point of view and slam doors in frustration? Or do we talk calmly over our differences? Children pick up our responses to conflicts very rapidly. When we role model how to get along with others, our children will learn it quickly and naturally.

8) Rethink Punishments, Especially Corporal Punishments

Corporal punishment means inflicting physical pain on someone for something they have done wrong. When we inflict pain on our children for their wrongdoing, we are teaching them to do likewise to those whom they think have done something wrong to them. Let us correct misbehavior peacefully and lovingly so our children can learn how to do likewise. Like role modeling conflict resolution, the way we discipline our children teaches them how to “discipline” others, especially their siblings.

How do you help your children get along?

– Vivian –

 

8 Ways to Strengthen Love at Home

Mother Teresa has been in the news lately. Even though I am not a Catholic, I rejoice that she will be canonised in September this year.  To me, Mother Teresa was the epitome of love. She had spent her life pouring out her love to “the hungry, the naked, the homeless, the crippled, the blind, the lepers, all those people who feel unwanted, unloved, uncared for throughout society, people that have become a burden to the society and are shunned by everyone.” You don’t have to be a Catholic or Christian to feel or receive her love. Her love was universal.

While Mother Teresa was known for administering to the poorest of the poor of different faiths, she had a lot to say about love at home. This article is inspired by her words of wisdom on this subject matter.

Love begins at home, and it is not how much we do, but how much love we put in the action that we do.

Mother Teresa, Nobel Lecture, 11 Dec 1979

This sentence has stayed with me since the first time I read it eons ago. Love. It all begins at home. I can’t do what she did on the streets of Calcutta . But I can pour love into the actions that I do at home.

All the quotes below were extracted from Mother Teresa’s book, “Thirsting for God”. Though the book was a collection of her meditations, the quotes I’ve used are not “religious”.  They are words of wisdom for everyone.  For each of her quote, I have also raised some questions for us to ponder. The questions are meant to increase our awareness so that henceforth we can choose how much love we want to put in the action that we do at home.

1: “Love begins at home—–everything depends on how we love one another at home.”

Home is where the heart is. It is the place where our hearts are most vulnerable. It is the place where our hearts yearn love. When we are loved, we can conquer the world. When we do not feel loved, everything falls apart. How we love one another at home sets the foundation for our interaction with the world. As parents, spouse and children, we wield immense power in shaping the world through what we do at home.

Questions to ponder:

  • How do we love one another at home?
  • Is it unconditional or conditional love?
  • Do we wage a cold war on our spouse, children or parents if they do something we don’t agree with?
  • When our children misbehave or throw a tantrum, do we seek to understand why, or do we demand that they stop this instant?
  • Do we put ourselves in their shoes with their thoughts, beliefs AND maturity, not ours?
  • Do we empathise with how they are hurting?

2: “Much of the hurt in our homes comes from uncontrolled use of words, said anywhere, in front of other people. Let us open our eyes to the harm we do.”

Words have power. The saying “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never harm me” cannot be further than the truth. Most times, our physical injuries from “sticks and stones” will heal, but the caustic words said to us will continue to hurt and haunt us years after they were uttered. Words can either be fertilisers that encourage growth, or they can be poisons that kill or stunt growth.

Questions to ponder:

  • What words do we use on our children? Spouse? Family members?
  • How would we feel if those words were used on us?
  • What kinds of impact do those words have on the emotional and psychological health of our loved ones?
  • What can we say to our loved ones instead?

3: “Criticism is nothing less than dressed up pride… Refrain from prejudice, which means to set your mind against somebody. It is very sad when it becomes a part of our lives.”

We are all guilty of being judgers. We judge our children and our spouse. We judge our parents, our in-laws, our siblings. We even judge ourselves!! Self criticism is a topic in and of itself and I will not touch on here. But criticism of others is a reflection of our self righteousness. When we criticise, it is nothing more than saying “I am right and you are wrong. My beliefs and values are right, yours are wrong. The way I do things is right and the way you do things is wrong.” Criticism is our ego talk. Instead of criticising, attempt to understand. Or even better, do something to help. As Mother Teresa once said, “If you judge people, you have no time to love them.”

Questions to ponder:

  • What do we criticize about others?
  • Why did they do what they did?
  • Do we understand what they are REALLY going through, not what we think they are going through?
  • If we were struggling with the same issues we are critical of, be it punctuality, lack of attention, or worse infidelity, how would we like to be helped?
  • How can we help those whom we are now criticising?

4: “Find at least one good point in the other person and build from there. In the family, you should thank each other, mentioning the good you have seen others do.”

In psychology, there’s a phenomenon called Baader-Meinhof phenomenon, or “frequency illusion”. When we are made aware of something, subconsciously, we keep looking out for that something. Likewise, when we focus on the good of others, we will keep seeing the good. Not only will we keep seeing the good that others do now because we have become unconsciously attuned to acts of goodness, the people doing the acts keep doing them because they are encouraged to continue doing so.

Questions to ponder:

  • What labels do we give to our children?
  • What is one good thing about each of our loved ones?
  • How does that one good thing affect the way he/she behaves and treats others?
  • What other positive traits does this person have?

5: “Today, we see that all the suffering in the world has started from the home. Today, we have not time even to look at each other, to talk to each other, to enjoy each other, and still less to be what our children expect from us, what the husband expects from the wife, what the wife expects from the husband. And so more and more we are homeless at home because less and less are in touch with each other.”

Many have accused the pervasiveness of technology for the collapse of family communication because people start turning to their mobile devices at every available (and unavailable) moment. Family members spend more time staring at their mobile devices than they do looking at one another. They spend more time texting with their friends, or keeping in touch with virtual friends on social media than they spend with their families. But the same technology also allows the family to be in touch when someone is physically away. The fault is not in the technology. It lies with how we use the technology.

It all begins with love. For there to be love, there needs to be connection. For there to be connection, there needs to be interaction. For there to be interaction, there needs to be time spent together. For there to be time spent together, there needs to be a commitment to want to bond. For there to be a commitment to want to bond, there needs to be love.  It all begins with love.

Questions to ponder:

  • How do we stay connected with our loved ones?
  • How often do we tell our loved ones we love them?
  • How often do we SHOW our loved ones we love them?
  • Do we even know how our loved ones want to be loved?
  • What is one thing we can do to be available for our loved ones?

6: “You must open your eyes wide so that you can see the opportunities to give wholehearted free service right where you are, in your family. If you don’t give such service in your family, you will not be able to give it to those outside your home.”

As cliché as this may sound, ask not what our family can do for us; ask what we can do for our family. And it refers to every single member of our family. By “service”, I take it to mean several things. It could be a word of encouragement or love. It could be spending some time together. It could be giving a gift, or a massage. Or it could be as simple as running an errand for that person. These services show our love in different forms to our loved ones. We need to open our eyes wide to know what kinds of services are needed and yearned. The service required of us may not be a service we feel comfortable doing. For example I dread giving gifts. I see it as an encouragement of materialism. But my daughter lights up whenever she receives something, even if it doesn’t cost anything. So I put in an effort to either make her something or buy her something once in a while. That is because that is the “service” she craves from me to know I love her and I cannot deny her that just because it is not a service I like to provide.

Questions to ponder:

  • Do we really know what kinds of “service” our family need from us?
  • How do we find out the kinds of service they need?
  • What can we do to provide those services?

7: “We must reach the heart. To reach the heart, we must do—–love is proven in deeds. People are attracted more by what they see than by what they hear.

If I want my children to be kind, first I need to be kind, not just tell them to be kind. I need to model what kindness is in deeds and in words. If I want my children to be polite, first I need to be polite. I need to model courtesy not only to my peers or those more senior than I, but also courtesy to the children themselves, and especially to the “invisibles” of our society, the cleaners, domestic workers, construction workers etc. The values I want my children to learn must be applied to all stations of life, not only the higher echelons. Children are very sharp and they will pick up inconsistencies in our actions and words. When we tell our children we love them, we need to show it to them ALL THE TIME. Even when we need to discipline them, it needs to be done with love, not in anger.  It is through our actions that we teach and show values.  It is through our actions they feel our love.

Questions to ponder:

  • What do we need to do to show our love?
  • What kind of values do we want to inculcate in our children?
  • How do we walk the talk in inculcating love and values in our children?

8: “Let us make our homes real places of love so that we can overcome any hatred. “

That, my friends, wraps up this blog post. The way to overcome hatred is with love. The path to peace is through love. And it begins at home. May we all parent with love.

Please leave us your comments. We’d love to hear from you!

– Vivian –

 

12 Ways to Connect with Your Teen

Parenting the teen years in many ways is challenging. The teens have developed an identity for themselves. They spend less time at home and become less communicative. Very often, their friends mean more to them and have a greater influence over them than their parents. Children do not naturally shun talking with their parents. They are “trained” to stop talking to their parents because they feel that their parents are not interested in what they have to say or that their parents do not understand them. So here are 12 ways you can establish your link with your teen so he/she feels more connected with you and becomes more willing to communicate with you.

1) Be Interested In Your Teen

Continue to show an interest in your teen and his life. Be genuinely interested in what he has to say.  Ask him to tell you about his friends or his interests. Ask him open-ended questions that encourage more conversation rather than questions requiring only “Yes” or “No” answers. Let the conversations be about him, not the homework he needs to get done, or why he did not do what you asked him to. Engage in conversations that do not put him on the defensive. By and by, your teen will feel safe enough to share more about himself with you. The more interested you are in your teen and the more you encourage him to communicate with you without judgment on your part, the less he feels the need to hide things from you, the more open he will be with you.

2) Be Available

Put down your phone. Give your teen 100% of your attention. It may not be a convenient time, but do your best anyway. Every time you turn your child away when she wants to talk to you, you train her to stop talking to you. So minimize turning her away when she wants to talk. If you are never available when she wants to tell you the small stuff, you can be certain she will NEVER come to you and tell you the big stuff.  Be sensitive to your teen’s body language. Sometimes she may have something to say but is hesitant. When you are attuned to your child, you will pick it up. Then gently rope her into a conversation and do your best to put all distractions aside. When you show your teen you are available when she needs you, you are building the link for her to come to you when she REALLY needs you.

3) Hold The Advice

Sometimes, teens just want someone to listen to them. When your teen shares his angst with you, hold whatever advice you may have at the tip of your tongue. Just listen, don’t advise. Acknowledge how he feels and bite your tongue. You can ask him questions to help him clarify his thoughts or help him look at the issue from a different perspective. Help him to come up with a solution himself. And when your teen doesn’t feel you are trying to tell him what to do, but are respecting him to come up with his own solutions, he will be more willing to communicate with you.  The best part is, by not jumping in to provide advice or solution, you are helping your teen develop guiding questions to ponder whenever he faces a problem. And that is teaching him to fish for life.

4) Show Affection Daily

Give your teen a hug or a kiss, but definitely not in public unless she doesn’t mind it. If hugging and kissing are not expressions of affection in your family, give her a back rub or an affectionate pat on the back. Tell her “I love you”.  Make her her favourite meal. Buy her a gift with no strings attached. Or perhaps, bring your teen out for a special date and spend time with her. Just because she has grown up to be a young adult does not mean she does not crave for affection from you. Take every opportunity you have with your teen to show her your love. And no, discipline and punishment, while out of goodwill and concern for your teen, do not come across as acts of affection. When your teen feels your affection for her, she develops an emotional connection with you and knows she can count on you anytime, especially in times of difficulty. And that encourages her to be more open and communicative with you.

5) Let Your Teen Know You Are Proud Of Her  

It is human instinct to be drawn closer to those who approve of us.  The reason why teens tend to be drawn closer to their friends is because they feel accepted by their friends.  Does your teen feel you are proud of him? Does he hear you praising him more often than you giving him a piece of your mind?  Does he feel safe to come to you if he is in trouble?  Other than showing him affection, let him know you approve of him and believe in him.  Tell him you accept him as he is and will support him in his endeavours.  If he is a performer, turn up for his performances.  If he is a sportsman, cheer him at his sports games.  And should he stumble and fall,  encourage him and gently help him pick himself up. When he makes a mistake, do not pounce on him.  Instead, let him know you are by his side and will help him through the difficult times.  Let him know you believe in the goodness in him and help him to do the right thing to make amends.  When your teen sees you are with him through thick and thin, he will naturally be drawn to you and feel connected with you.

6) Give Your Teen Freedom

Acknowledge that your teen is no longer a young child. Treat her as the young adult that she is. Give her freedom. Do not helicopter parent her. The tighter you hold on to the rein, the harder she will struggle to get out of it. If you are concerned about her safety, talk to her about it. Share your concerns with her and encourage her to address your concerns with the plans she has.  This is the time your teen needs to learn how to extend her wings to take flight. Show her how to fly safely. Do not clip her wings or she will either fail to learn how to soar when she becomes an adult, or worse, go somewhere else to learn how to fly and pick up bad habits along the way. The irony is the more freedom you give your teen, the less she finds the need to stay away from you.  So let go of your apron string and you may be surprised to find your teen hanging around you more.

7) Spend Time Together

Such a precious resource time is. And precisely because it is a precious resource, you need to spend it with your family, your child. Do fun activities together once in a while. Go camping, watch a sport together, go on vacations. Spending time together builds common memories and shared experiences. You have something common to talk about for years to come. It also helps you know each other better. And when your teen feels you know and understand him, he will become more open and willing to communicate with you.

8) Create Rituals To Connect

Other than spending time together, having some rituals help you to connect better. It could be a monthly date night with your teen. It could be a Friday night ice-cream. Or even regular weekend brunch with the whole family. Something consistent, something your teen knows will be a time for connection. This is even more important if your work takes you away from home for long hours or long periods of time. Creating these rituals will help you carve out time for each other. And for all you know, it could be something your teen looks forward to, knowing you will be there for her. Like spending time together, this creates shared memories and helps you and your teen understand each other better. And with increased understanding, communication links open up.

9) Do Something Meaningful Together

More than just spending time together, when we are doing something meaningful together, it gets imprinted more deeply in our memories. What could be meaningful time together? It could be doing volunteer work and helping the less fortunate. It could be chipping in and helping to do housework TOGETHER. It could even be a family project of picking up trash while hiking through a park or the beach. When the family contributes together for a common good, the bond gets stronger.

10) Ask Your Teen To Teach You Something

What is your teen good at? Programming? Orienteering? Rock Climbing? Music? Ask him to teach you a little of what he knows. Let him take the lead and be the teacher. There is no greater compliment to a child than having his parents be interested in what he is good at AND having him show them. At the end of it, you may even like it so much you grow your expertise in it. Then you’d have even more common grounds to talk to your teen. However, if at the end of it, you decide you are really not cut out for what he is teaching you, the fact you asked your teen to teach conveys your acknowledgment of his expertise. That helps him feel more connected with you.

You may think your teen is not good at anything enough to teach you. Well, then let your teen take the lead in doing something. It could be letting her plan a family day out and everyone going along with her plan. It could be letting her decide on a family vacation and itinerary (with a budget given) and letting her be the tour guide. It could even be a family movie marathon night and your teen gets to choose all the movies. Whatever it is, let your teen lead and you follow. When you do that, you are telling her “I trust you” and that helps her to trust you in return.

11) Get To Know Your Teen’s Friends

Your teen’s social circle is the key influencer in his life. To understand him, you need to know who his friends are. Invite your teen’s friends over for meals or have him bring along a friend on family outing or vacation. You may get to see a side of your teen you have never seen at home. Sometimes, there may be things he is unwilling to tell you directly (eg boy-girl relationships), but will do so indirectly through his conversations with his friends. Through interactions with your teen and his friends, you share even more common grounds with your teen. It helps you allay some fears you might have when you know who he is hanging out with. It also helps you be more sensitive when he shares problems he has with his friends.

12) Be In Touch With Your Teen’s Online World

Connect with your teen.  Ask if you can be her friend on her social media platform.  That is where she shows the world who she is.  And the most important thing when you are there is you do not stop her from being who she is.  You are there as an observer and friend.  Do not at any time “discipline” her online for that will guarantee you being booted out before you can say “Facebook”.  Send her text messages, whatsapp her to let her know you are thinking of her (NOT keeping track of her).  It is extremely important to touch base with your teen to let her know she is on your mind, that she is important to you.  When she feels she truly matters to you and that you care about who she really is, she will be more willing to open up to you.

So there you have it, 12 ways to connect with your teen. How do you connect with your teen? Do share it with us in the comments section.

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– Vivian –