It's natural to want to give your kids advice, to save them from the same mistakes you made, or their own. But how often do those words of wisdom land parents in the doghouse? That's because there's a right way and wrong way to share your thoughts.
As children reach their teen years, parents need to give them space to work things out themselves and practice being an adult. It isn't a smooth or simple pathway, but one filled with potholes and obstacles. Many parents can feel the need to herd their child along a particular path, dishing out advice along the way.
There's nothing wrong with giving advice. But there is a right way and wrong way to do it if you want to have a relationship where they value your opinion.
A different perception of advice
I'm not one to give advice to my kids too often. Most of the time, we tend to talk through options, I share my thoughts and then I let them make a decision.
This approach works well in our house. We don't have a lot of arguments and our kids are keen to seek our opinions. There's a level of trust that has built up over time where they accept our ideas and we accept their choices.
But it doesn't work all the time. There have been times where one of our kids hasn't been making good choices and we've had to step in. You have to be aware though, that this isn't ideal. We are always keen to get things to a point where they can take over making their own decision again.
If you're ready to see advice as sharing your thoughts, not telling kids what to do, follow these tips. It'll lead to a lot less arguing and a lot more peace in your house.
7 tips for giving advice to tweens and teens
Next time you find yourself with a chance to impart wisdom, think about doing these things:
1. Hold your tongue. Sometimes it's better to say nothing, and see what happens. There's nothing wrong with letting tween try to work things out themselves. As long as they're not in danger and there are adults around to step in, wait and see if they'll come to you first.
2. Be tentative with your ideas. As kids get older, they like to feel that they're making more choices. That's a good thing to encourage, so if you're handing over some advice do it with a, "Can I tell you what I think?" this makes it sound more like an opinion than an order.
3. Don't rush their decisions. The art of making decisions is one that takes practice. Give your kids as much space as you can to work out what they're doing. If the timeframe is short, then be clear about that. The more time they have to consider their plan, the more likely they are to make a good choice. Particularly if they don't feel nagged in to going one way.
4. Leave space for them to come back with questions. When working things out, kids will often want to talk to make sure they get it right. Don't be too busy to listen when they come to you.
5. Back up good decisions. There are few things that are completely black and white. Sometimes you have to give things a couple of goes to work out the right path. If they come up with a sound plan that you don't agree with, share your thoughts but support their decision.
6. Have faith in them. Too many people seem to think that some decisions are too big for children to make. As a social worker, I've seen plenty of kids make grown up decisions. We all need to let our kids grow up and be their number one cheerleader.
7. Point out what they've done well. When they do make a choice and act on it, give them feedback along the way. We all prosper with positive feedback. Plenty of other people will tell them what they get wrong. We can give them encouragement and spot their strengths.
Like most aspects of parenting, these are not things you can get right all the time. Many of these choices and decisions will come during crisis points. It's important for parents to keep a cool head and to admit to their own failings along the way. Focus on the end goal of a great relationship with your adult children to keep things in perspective too.