“Are You Interested in My Opinion?”

April 29, 2024

by Lisa Schalk

Join me as I rewind the clock to a time when my young adult children were in their teens and complaints were abundant. Teachers were unfair. Friends were mean. Homework was impossible. We parents understood nothing. (Which reminds me of a Mark Twain quote: “My father was an amazing man. The older I got, the smarter he got.”)

I thought it was my job to listen calmly and then offer sage advice. It didn’t work. They didn’t listen.

And then I read about a new approach to parenting. In a nutshell, the advice was to listen to your child talk about their dilemma/complaint/unhappiness/frustration calmly and – before offering any kind of unsolicited guidance or advice – ask, “Are you interested in my opinion?”

I tried it. They were so surprised you could have knocked them over with a feather. Immediate responses ranged from, “Oh!, um, I don’t know. Let me think” to either a “No thanks,” or a “Yeah,” – followed by a sincere “Thanks for asking!” At which point you could have knocked me over with a feather. Their gratitude at having been asked before being avalanched with unasked-for ideas and/or help was undeniable, and it actually ushered us into a new level of understanding one another.

Like we adults, sometimes our kids need advice, and sometimes they just want to vent. In sharing their problems with us, they deserve to be asked their preference. Allowing them advice-free space to vent is a gift. It says to them, “You’re entitled to your feelings, I get it.” Implicit in our agreement not to offer unsolicited advice or help (NUAH is the acronym my husband coined) is a vote of confidence that they will either figure things out on their own – or come to us another time for advice. And even when their answer is “yes,” they are grateful for having been asked first. Again, it’s all about respect.

Family relationships, especially during the teen years, are strong and fragile at the same time. By treating kids with the respect they deserve and so deeply crave as they carve out their identities, we shore up the fragility with strong and true bonds.

And when we parents ask for help in matters that exceed our expertise, we model to our children that we don’t know it all any more than they do! If your child needs help with academic- or school-related issues you can always call on Smart City Kids. Our advisors are experts at working closely with families to find best-fit schools to meet the needs of all involved. And our gifted tutors support students in matters ranging from test-prep to academics to executive functioning.

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