“Really? Wow, that is very cool; of course, you can.” I keep answering and telling my little one as his story and abilities become more and more grandiose in his story. He is 8 and can tell quite the tall tale when it comes to his physical and athletic abilities. As I walk across the living room to put on my shoes, I see my oldest ready to tell him that what he is saying is impossible. I give him a look, which he now recognizes. It is a mixture of a smile and a wink with soft eyes. He smiles back coyly and lets his little brother continue with his impossible story. He understands that I know his little brother might be exaggerating but it is ok to let him dream out loud.
What I don’t think my oldest realizes is that I let him tell tall tales when he was younger as well. It might seem silly but I see it as part of the process of allowing them to openly communicate with me. If I just correct them and tell them they are wrong when their imagination takes over, as they grow older they will be less likely to open up to me. It is also not the only thing that I must do if want them to be able to confide and talk to me.
Poor kids now a day, and maybe always, get constant and contradictory messages from us parents. We want them to speak their mind, but not be disrespectful. We want them to communicate, but not talk out of place. We want them to confide in us, but not tell us things we don’t to hear as parents. We want them to feel free to ask us any question, but some things we feel uncomfortable answering. The list of communication contradiction that we impose on kids as parents keeps going on and on. It is quite the balancing act and I mess up sometimes, but it is important that I keep trying building those bricks of communication with them.
I have always been blunt with them, answering questions for which they were comically horrified at the answers. I always try to listen to them, even when they are rambling and talking nonsense. I will admit I am not always successful at this, especially with the oldest; he knows and enjoys pushing my buttons with his impossible scenario questions. But I try to do my best to always actively listen to them. I make sure to admit and own up when I am wrong with them. I want them to know it is ok to make mistakes but you have to own up to them and fix what you did.
Lately, I have been working on something new with them to ensure good communication between us, as they enter the chaotic teen years. I know it can be a little a double edge sword, but it is something my mom did for me and I am very glad she did. I have sat down with them and taking teaching opportunities when I have had them, to make sure they always feel comfortable telling me the truth, ESPECIALLY when they make a mistake. It started with telling them they would be in bigger trouble for hiding or lying while they were younger. Now that I have a preteen, the tone and message are mutating.
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The message now is that even if they make a mistake or an in trouble, they feel confident and comfortable to tell me because I am always there to help them, no matter what. I remember when I was a teen my best friend showed up at my house with five bags of marijuana. He had been hanging out with a “friend” of his and cops had shown up. His “friend” split up what he was selling, so if anyone got caught by the cops it would not be a felony. Well, my best friend had been in the wrong place and the wrong time and now he was left holding this five backs of weed for a drug dealer. His dad was a cop so he couldn’t take them to his house, so he showed up at my place, begging me to help him. I did and I kept it for him inside a sock in my sock drawer. He was so relieved.
What was the first thing I did after he left? I told my mom. She and I had built that trust and open channels of communication so that I could tell her anything. She was mortified, to say the least, but knew I wouldn’t touch the stuff. She trusted me. A couple of days later my friend came back, got the stuff and gave it back to whoever it belong too. I could have hidden it from my mom and she probably would never have found out. But she had built that trust and open communication with me, to which I didn’t feel right hiding it from her, even though it was a sticky situation.
I hope my boys are never in such a situation, but if they are, I have faith that we have built strong communication channels so that they feel comfortable telling me right away. Not because they feel obligated to tell me, but because they trust and know I will always have their backs.
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