Starting the Year Strong Part 3: Learn what your kids think (about your parenting)


As we orient ourselves to start the year strong, it helps to gain perspective from the people most impacted by our parenting, our kids. If your children are school age or older, the following exercise could prove invaluable to understanding how your parenting approach is impacting the relationship with your kids and subsequent influence you have in their life.

In corporate America, this sort of conversation is referred to as “staying interviews,” which is opposite to the well-known “exit interview.” Meaning, before an associate has decided to leave the organization, they are interviewed or surveyed to ask how they would rate their experience within the organization. This allows the leadership to make adjustments to improve the experience of their associates. Within our homes, this would be akin to discussing our kid's experience in our homes, before they move out of our homes.

Analyn and I have experienced this challenge with our three older kids. There are some things we would have rather learned while they were still in the home so we could have amended our behavior. Thankfully, we were able to apply the lessons learned to our four younger kids with great impact. Fear keeps parents from asking their kids how it’s going, but courage and willingness to learn compels a strong parent to ask their children qualitative questions that offer insight on their parenting approach.

For example, being the strong-willed Dad that I am, means that at times I have cut a conversation short with my teen if I felt they were disagreeing with me over a point of contention. If this required raising my voice or asserting my authority, the end - agreement from my child - justified the means. I may have gained their compliance but through a dysfunctional approach.

After our kids reached adulthood, I would hear from each of them in their own way, how this approach was unhelpful and was actually counterproductive to my goal of relational accord and influence with them as a teen.

Our recommendation as you start the New Year strong is to take some time to sit with your child(ren) and ask some questions about you and your parenting. CAUTION: let your child(ren) speak their truth. Practice “active listening” as they share. This is their truth, it is in your best interest to know what they think.

Active Listening follows this guide:

Listen for the positive and negative responses.

Try to understand how both sides make them feel.

Clarify comments to make sure you are understanding what is being said.

Maintain composure, be present, repeat back what you learned.

Sometimes it helps to take notes to allow time to process.

As you commit to this course, below are a few questions you are welcome to use.

1.        When do you see me getting frustrated with you?

2.        What do you like best about my parenting?

3.        What do you like least about my parenting?

4.        How would you like to see me change my parenting approach?

Reflect. Record. RE-ENGAGE.

After this conversation with the kids, it is very helpful to take some time to reflect on the comments and record your thoughts. If you journal (which we highly recommend), perhaps consider writing out your thoughts. If you have a trusted resource, share this reflection time and your thoughts with that person and solicit their perspective. After you have sufficiently processed the information, it is time to RE-engage your efforts to improve your parenting approach. You don’t have to be someone you aren’t (leverage your unique strengths as you parent) but do thoughtfully consider your child’s honest feedback and determine ways to integrate their feedback into your parenting approach this year.

We are not advocating for a child-run parenting approach, but we do think that getting feedback from the people you influence is just good leadership. Your children will appreciate the voice you give them and the respect of your active listening even if they roll their eyes at the prospect of a sit-down conversation (they are still teenagers, I know). It’s a New Year offering a new opportunity to make adjustments in the way you parent your kids, seize the moment and listen up. Your kids will thank you (one day) and you won’t regret it!

Brandon Miller