Notes on Parenting

Insights for parenting babies, toddlers, teens, and young adults.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Parents as Consultants

Sometimes as parents we feel a need to preach to and lecture our children. With older children, this may cause defiance and opposition. When older children come to parents with problems, parents are wise to address the problem using a consultant role. The consulting parent uses four important skills:

1) Reflective Listening. Parents repeat back what they think they heard their child say and what they believe their child is feeling. For example, a parent may say, "So it sounds like you're feeling angry because your teacher doesn't explain math very well and you are suffering for it."

2) Use "I" rather than "you" statements. You statements can make the child feel more defensive. For example, "I am confused about why you want to drop algebra. You've seemed really excited about a career in electrical engineering," is likely to be more accepted by a child than, "You will never be an electrical engineer without algebra."

3) Wonder out loud about consequences and alternatives. Parents can help children by pointing out potential problems with or acceptable alternatives to decisions child wants to make. However, it must be presented in the right way. For example, "I am just wondering how you are going to graduate from high school if you drop algebra," helps child think about the decision more than saying, "You need to take algebra in order to graduate."

4) Leave ownership for problem-solving to the child. This will help child to be more responsible for decisions and consequences. Let child ultimately solve the problem. Parent can still lead child by saying, "What do you want to have happen here?" or "Which alternative that we have discussed do you think would be best for you future?".

Do you think that the consultant role is good to use with children of all ages? Do you see any potential problems with using these methods? What do you think are the advantages to using these strategies to help children with problem-solving?

The ideas and examples given above come from the article Proclamation-Based Principles of Parenting and Supportive Scholarship by Craig H. Hart, Lloyd D. Newell, and Lisa L. Sine in David C. Dollahite (Ed.), Strengthening our families: An in-depth look at the proclamation on the family (2000). Bookcraft: Salt Lake City, Utah.

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