When my daughter, Amy, was about 12, she came to me with this observation: “Dad, you probably know this already, but I just counted, and the last twelve times we’ve talked, it has been about homework.” Then she smiled and said, “And Dad, that’s not much of a relationship, is it?” I agreed and promised to trust her about doing her homework.
Over the years, when I looked at my relationships, I found that my mother and I were mostly talking about the weather; my son, Jesse, and I were mostly talking about sports; and Amy and I were having great conversations but too infrequently. Simply reflecting and finding the patterns made it clear what I needed to change.
If you want to enhance your relationships with your kids, the easiest way is to improve the conversations you have with them. Try this: Reflect back on the last week or two and see if you can identify the pattern of conversation in each of your relationships. Think about both the content of the conversations and the quality of those conversations. Are you talking about the things that matter? Do the conversations contain candor, safety, and respect?
Here is a simple audit that might bring insight to where you could focus your attention to enhance your relationship. It’s not meant to assess or judge. It’s simply about noticing what is present or what is missing.
- Do we talk often enough?
- Are our conversations positive and future-oriented?
- Are we having fun? Do we laugh together?
- Are caring and kindness present?
- Do I listen in a non-judgmental way?
- Am I willing to just listen when they need to talk?
- Am I clearly on their side? Do they know it?
- Am I interested in what matters to them?
- Can they make mistakes with me?
- Can we talk about problems, theirs and mine?
One way to work with this audit is to assign a number scale from 1 to 10 for each question, with 1 meaning there is lots of work to be done and 10 meaning you are in great shape. Tell the truth, but don’t feel bad about how you score yourself! Noticing is the first step. Then, if you are feeling brave, ask your kids to rate each of these questions with regard to your relationship.
I’m convinced that as you reflect on these questions, you’ll have insights and see opportunities to make changes.
Thanks for reading. I’d love to hear what insights you gain from this process. Email me at [email protected].