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Why Kids Hate...

“I hate ____!” (Insert Topic: Math, Reading, School…) What does it really mean? Parents, how many of you reading this have heard your child say they “hate” something that has to do with their academic experience? Do you wonder what is really going on? Do you get the feeling you’re not hearing the entire story? You are right – the reason behind the statement goes much deeper than the Inserted Topic.

When you hear your child say something negative about school, what is your instinctual response? To protect, to fix, to help? That's what GOOD parents do, right? Hmmm...would you be willing to let your kids to figure it out on their own instead? Do you know that you can lift the distracting comment and get to the source of what your child is really saying? Conscious parenting offers a unique way of communicating with your child through questions. Curious?

First, let me say – there is no right or wrong way to parent. Let that sink in, please. I'll wait.

Before getting to the tools of conscious parenting, let me offer some responses parents have used as a way to connect/sympathize/help with their child. I have heard these comments with my own ears.

Child: I hate Math.

Parent: Oh, I hear you – this new Math book (or teacher) does it differently – it’s very difficult.

Child: I hate Reading, it’s boring.

Parent: I know – I can’t finish a book either! You must take after me.

Child: I hate school.

Parent: Really? How come? Is someone bullying you?

These three examples show how easily a parent can fall into the trap of wanting to connect with their child. By connecting with them, you want to show them you are on their side and you understand them. What has happened is that you've just validated what your child believes about themselves - making them right - so they feel sad, frustrated, stupid, unsure, etc. Is this the outcome you’re looking for? If you are still reading, I'm guessing not. Let's keep going in this scenario with the BUTS...

Child: I hate Math.

Parent: …but you’ve got to do your homework or you'll get a bad grade.

Child: I hate Reading, it’s boring.

Parent: ….but you’ve got to read this to write the essay/book report.

Child: I hate school.

Parent: …but you’ve got to go – it’s the law. Just stay away from (student's name).

Not only have you negated any sense of connection or support for your child - you are policing their choices. Kids feel cornered. Now they have to get a good grade and avoid someone because that's what you said. By trying to make it right, you've inadvertently made your child feel wrong. They clam up and internalize their problems which leads to lack of self-confidence, stress, and anxiety among other things. I have yet to meet a parent who wants to see their child struggle in school or have anxiety, so, I humbly invite you to try it this way…

Child: I hate ______.

Parent: Hmmm. You hate ______? Is it true? How do you know? (Take 10 seconds to say this.)

You are not making it right or wrong – it’s just a statement you are questioning.

Child: I just do. (or whatever "because" they are enmeshed in)

They are looping the story that is becoming bigger than what is actually going on. (Which is the important piece of information you are looking for.)

Parent: Ok. (PAUSE) What would you like to do differently to change that?

Child: (Insert blank stare.)

You just gave them the power to choose. You didn’t side with them. You didn't negate their abilities. You didn’t force them. You offered them the space to be in charge of their destiny. That’s empowerment.

There are always some strong-willed kids that will stick to their story because they know it is the best way to manipulate you. (That's a whole different topic!) If a child says, “I don’t know.” When you ask them what they would like to do differently, know that what they mean is, “I’m not sure”, and keep asking questions!* If you can stay away from falling into their story, the layers of “hate” will lift and you get the root of the statement. If you can step back and support them with the space to choose for themselves, they will learn that they can talk to you about things because you won't make them wrong for it.

Truth, what do you know that your child really saying? They are scared, they feel stupid, they don’t understand, they don’t want to get in trouble, they don’t want to disappoint you because they don’t know what’s going on and they don’t have to tools to solve it themselves; they are looking to YOU, mom and dad, to support them. Not side with them, but to guide them. Not to help them, but to empower them to find the way on their own. Not to force them, but to offer them the reality of what happens if they choose not to do something. Not to make them wrong for making a mistake, but to lead them towards a better choice next time.

Would you be willing to give this incredibly easy conversation tool a try? I wonder what change you and your child will find!

*More questions available – join me on Monday nights from 7-8:30 PST for the Empowering Your Kids video call. Every call is different and provides a bounty of pragmatic parenting tips and tools. Join me!

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