“What do you think I should do?”
I do not remember the exact circumstance, but when I saw our daughter respond to a particular situation, I said to myself, “Ah! She is not a kid anymore.”
It is true that our age difference will always remain constant, but the mental age gap shrinks fast. There comes a time we start asking our children for advice.
Children are more perceptive than we can imagine or give them credit for. They can sense who is sincere, who is not. On many occasions our daughter told me that some one was taking me for a ride. I realised later that she was right. I remember that my father would often explain a dilemma he was facing and ask “What do you think I should do?” I was still in school, when he started this. Looking back he was gently breaking me into the real world. He was equipping me with the thinking that would help me make tough choices. Much later he told me that those discussions helped him get clarity – just the act of talking to an unbiased mind. “In a way I was growing up too” he said.
How do you do this? What time is best? What do you say or ask?
Here are a few tips.
- Do this only when you have time. You must be sometimes prepared for a long conversation because you don’t know how the conversation might go.
- Don’t share your ideas or solutions. Simply explain the situation and ask “In my position what would you do?”
- Do not interrupt while the child is speaking. Don’t try to paraphrase anything. Be patient and listen even if what the child says makes no sense.
- Be prepared for a view radically different from your views.
- After the child finishes stating her point of view ask why. But don’t turn this into an interrogation.
- Use the opportunity to explore consequences of doing what she is asking you to do.
- Thank the child for helping you.
- Once you have resolved the issue make it a point to share with the child what happened.
- Right through the conversation treat the child as your equal; no talking down please.
The fact that you respect and trust the child is empowering for the child. One important outcome is that she would reciprocate by talking to you about her issues (and not hold anything back).