How Can I Have More Effective Conversations with My Child?

- User Submitted

The first question, Dr. Skinner, is my son won't respond to my questions or attempts to make conversation. He just grunts or shrugs and says one word and goes to his room. How do I get him to talk to me and communicate? Well, uh, this is a really good question, and it's a common question that I've heard, uh, from parents. Like, I get grunts and grumblings and uhs and uhs and, uh, I don't know, whatever, uh, type of responses. And so my initial, uh, thought is, uh, going back in time, your relationship with this specific child. And I would want you to think about, uh, maybe the last few weeks, maybe the last few months when you really started to see this behavior, uh, escalate. Now, the reason why this matters is we want to reflect upon a shift. So first part of it is looking at the pattern that we're observing. The second part of it is what, how did your relationship used to be with your child before they became mumblers and grumbler in one syllable, one whatever word person, right? Why were they, why are they now responding this way? The timing of it. I want to understand their timing. When did this start? And I wanna understand something in our dynamics, uh, is, is my child pulling away from me? If so, what is triggering that pull away? I wanna have a conversation, but how do I prepare for it? One of the core things that I've learned over the last few years is mental rehearsal is proper preparation to prevent pain. Now, lemme explain what I just said. We want to prepare for this conversation. Many times as parents and, and in our marital relationships, we just say things because we're in a conversation. We don't really think about the core message of what we're trying to say. So imagine with me if I said to you, okay, mom, dad, what are you trying to say to your child in this situation where you're getting ums and ahs, uh, one word answers are you really not saying, I'd like to learn more about you. We haven't had a meaningful conversation in days or weeks or months. I just wonder what's happening in your life. Now, I may reflect on the past. You know, it seems like we used to be able to talk about some of these things, but I don't know what's changed. Can we talk about that? Now, notice I'm, uh, I'm not, I'm just observing and I'm also inviting because I'd like a deeper relationship. So in my communication here, I'm actually focusing on where we've been, where we're at, and what I would like it to look like. And I would also invite them to open up, have I done something that has offended them? I would want to be aware of that. Uh, is there something going on in their life that I'm missing that I'm not paying attention to, that they may need more attention? Is it a substance use? Is it hidden behaviors that we're not aware of? Or is it possible that they're just being teens and they're like, I don't parents. I've got my peers, I've got my friends, and or are they depressed? See, I've got a lot of ORs here because I don't know your specific situation, but as a parent, my invitation to you is to pause and reflect on what you're observing. Is your, is your child isolating from friends? Are they isolating from the family? Is that, is that common or uncommon? And so in this situation, if I could, I might even be a little bit playful with my child, depending on this relationship, and I'd say so, uh, um, uh, um, what does that mean? I'm trying to understand your uhs and your ahs. And I, I mean, I, I, could you interpret that, what that means for me? So I might even be a little bit playful with my child if I have that kind of relationship? Because in that way, it's actually like in playing, I, I was reading a book about how we can effectively connect. And one of the core things is even during difficult conversations, if we can find a way to play and laugh, it actually alters the environment and helps us bond or connect in usually the way that we want. So I guess my answer to that question, Michelle, is think of all these questions I've asked, do some self-reflection, and then I would go from there.

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Dr. Kevin Skinner