Do you always encourage your kids to say whatever they want or do you censor them? Your immediate reaction might be confusion - how or why would you censor kids? But, think about it... have you ever told your child to watch what they say in certain company? Gave them a stern look as they randomly opened up about their thoughts or observations in front of strangers or your in-laws. Most parents probably don't restrict their kids from what they say and we all try and teach them 'how' behaviors which we hope will stick as they grow older (we have all been in work situations or at a cocktail party when we notice some adults seem to be lacking in the how). Nevertheless, it is important for us to really allow our kids to be heard. Not only does this help with their confidence but you will no doubt learn more about who your child is.
My kids very freely discuss their views on anything from politics to gender bias on TV to what to ask Santa for Christmas. They seem to have an opinion about everything and have no problem sharing it and yes, my son -- who has absolutely no filter -- will blurt out something embarrassing.
These are just a few ways in which you can encourage your kids to share their thoughts:
1. Provide a space for them to share their views in a way they are comfortable with. My daughter, who is an introvert, has her own blog where she will write about random views on any subject. She has learned to fine tune this and can discuss them so articulately that I find it hard to believe she is only 11. Forget CNN having political experts on their panels, they should invite my daughter and ask her what she thinks about the USA elections and the outcomes. Creating ways for your kids to share their views especially if their personality might be one where they back away from the limelight can reinforce the significance of what they want to share with the world.
2. Discussions around dinner. I suggested this in an earlier blog -- pick a topic and just go from there. Try something you all heard on the news, maybe saw on a poster, an advert, the latest fad that kids are into, an upcoming event, etc.
3. Responding with active listening. This is so important to do as a parent and I know we are all guilty of sometimes not really listening. Our kids have little tidbits of things they say as their minds process their environments -- really listen to what they are saying and don't react, but ask open-ended questions which will allow them to expand their thoughts and share more with you. I have found this approach has not only had my kids discuss various topics in depth with me but their friends tend to do the same when they are over at our house.
I saw this quote on social media and I know you Supermoms would agree with Margaret Mead. Provide your kids with the tools to expand their minds and become problem solvers. Allow them to understand more of what is happening in the world around them and encourage them to create their own thoughts. Make them feel that their voice is important, relevant and you truly are interested in what they have to say.
Yes, they live with you and their views will no doubt be a reflection of you and how they have been raised but teach them to question what they see and hear.
You would be amazed at how much we can learn from our children!