Kids Say the Darndest Things - Effective Parenting Through Listening

effective_parentingRecently I was working with a group of kid’s age’s nine to eleven.  I was discussing the importance of keeping the agreements you make with others.  I told them a hypothetical story about me making an agreement with them to pick them up next Saturday and take them to a waterpark for the afternoon.  I dramatized this story in which case I wasn’t able to pick them up but didn’t call until late Saturday night and so on.  After telling them the entire story and discussing how they waited all day for me and I didn’t show…..

I went on to ask them questions like:

  • How they were feeling about themselves when I hypothetically didn’t show up?  They replied “Not so good”. 
  • How do you think I’m feeling about myself?  They replied “Not so good”.
  • How’s the trust between us?  They said “Not so good”. 
  • How’s our relationship?  “Not so good” they replied. 


Up to this point this is the typical response I get when speaking to a group of adults.  I may go a little more in detail about trusting yourself, how’s your relationship with yourself and how keeping agreements directly effects your self esteem.

But at this point in the conversation with the kids I asked a question I don’t typically ask adults.

What if after not showing up on Saturday I told you I would come the next Saturday and take you to the water park? What would you say now?  They all yelled “That would be great"!

I’m wondering now if they are getting the point I’m trying to make so I played with them a little more and said what if I didn’t show up that Saturday? They all agreed they would feel bad and the relationship wouldn’t be good.  So I asked the question:

“What if I agree to get you the next Saturday? What would you say?”  Amazingly they said again “That would be great”!

I continued telling the story and not showing up for FOUR Saturdays before they finally said they didn’t believe I would show up!

This is when I ask the question to adults:

“Who do you break agreements with the most”?

Adults usually reply "Myself".  I had a feeling that this age group of kids didn’t have the same concerns as adults so I asked them a different question:

“Who breaks agreements with you the most”?

They immediately responded, without hesitation “my mom” or “my dad”.

So I asked another question:

“Why do you think your parents break agreements with you”?

Their answers:

  • Because their job is more important than me.
  • My stuff doesn’t matter.
  • I’m just a kid and mom and dad are very busy.
  • They get mad at me so they don’t do things with me.

In that moment I reflected on my own relationship with my three boys when they were growing up.  I was thinking how I needed to give them a call and apologize if I ever made them feel that they were not important because I didn’t do what I said.

I looked at these kids and said what we all need to hear about all of our relationships:

  • Your parents love you and you are the most important thing in their lives even though they may seem busy or in a bad mood. 
  • Your parents break their agreements with you because they’re not paying attention.

What a lesson for me.  Pay attention to the agreements I make or don’t make…. especially when they involve those that are quick to forgive and trust me over and over. Listening to the kids and  paying attention to them taught me effective parenting.

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