In my first blog post, I wrote about fighting siblings and how you can handle it
. I analysed it in detail and gave the steps towards the solution. Raising teenagers is not easy. Helping with the solution to their conflicts is also a difficult task. But, in comparison to the difference in opinions with a parent, it is peanuts. For the parent, anyway…
The parent always wants to be right
In my long practice working with families, one thing became clear: parents are not really flexible. They usually think that they are right and that the kids are being difficult. They give the same kids little or no space to state their own opinions. Even if the opinion does get out, there is usually no acceptance of a difference in views. Yes, I am also guilty of this. I do find it very difficult to admit that they have this right. And, I do find it very difficult to accept it that they sometimes make a decision that I do not agree with.
Making their own decisions
My son started training water-polo at the age of five. From the age of six, it became clear that he has talent and he is willing to work hard. He trained more and more each day, went training six times a week and played in the national competition. Everything was pointing towards a successful career. At the age of fifteen, he decided to stop. Just like that – he didn’t like it anymore. I had a very difficult time accepting this. In my opinion, you need to find what you’re good at and stick with it – make the best out of it. If you do this, your life will be a bit easier. I always tried to teach my own children that and that is why I had a very hard time understanding his decision of quitting after all of the hard work he had put in.
Moving in opposite directions
When our children are born, they are helpless. It is natural that we protect them and try to teach them everything. As the years go by, we have to make adjustments. We have to make room for their (new) ideas, while we are stuck in our ways. Our world is shrinking while their horizon is broadening. We are moving in opposite directions, away from each other. Therefore, it is understandable that it is not easy to adjust – and yet, we have to.
1. Try to have a dialogue and not a discussion.
Dialogue is a conversation between two or more people, usually a free exchange of opinions where nobody has to “win the battle”. However, a discussion is a conversation about opinions in a way that each party tries to convince the other party their opinion is the right one and should be taken as the right opinion of the group. The emphasis in the discussion is indeed on the winning, instead of learning more about each other. In the end of the day, it’s your child’s life and you’re only there to give directions – whether you like it or not.
2. Stop yourself if it turns into a discussion.
When you notice that it happens, stop. A discussion is pointless because you are trying to find a solution that is acceptable to both parties.
3. Take a step back and don’t let your ego rule.
When you are having a difference of opinions, the rule is: take a step back. How – it is different for each individual. Take a shower or a take a walk. Or smoke a cigarette. Think about your child’s opinion and ask yourself: what will be the outcome if you stick to your opinion and what if you do not?
4. Get back to the conversation when you can think clearly again and give your opinion without judgment.
You have to give your honest opinion. If you don’t agree, explain why with clear arguments. Explain what could be the consequences of their decision.
5. Apologise for your mistakes.
What I mean by this: if you said things you regret. I cannot even state how important this step is. As a parent, you often think that you always have to know the answers and you can’t make mistakes. Well, you can and you do. It is more important how you bounce back. Again: be honest and show your vulnerability. Admit when you are wrong – children appreciate it and your example is important if you want to teach them to be able to do the same.
6. Give your kid the possibility to state their opinion and validate it.
They have to have the feeling that they are being heard and taken seriously, that their opinion is respected. Only then can you find a solution that can bring peace and satisfaction for both sides.
7. End with a compromise.
It is possible that one conversation will not be enough. Sometimes you need a few. Sometimes time has to pass.
As a parent, you need to self-reflect regularly. You have to work on your flexibility, letting go of the idea that you know it all. Raising a child is a consequential repeating of actions. You need to repeat the given steps a thousand times. You have to be honest and show your vulnerability – that gives you credibility.
However, parents don’t always have all of the answers – and that’s okay as well. You are allowed to say sometimes: “I just don’t know what to do anymore” and let your child take the responsibility for their actions. We all try to shield our children from mistakes but we often forget that is the best way to learn. And you are here to facilitate their learning.
How do you deal with the difference in opinions with your children? Do you have any other tips?