What is the #1 Parenting Skill?

… it’s Listening

Here is my column from The Sunday Province, Vancouver:

Q: My daughter is 15 and went wild over Christmas. She got invited to a party at the start of the holidays and that led to several other parties and bad behaviour (drinking and who knows what else). I know it’s because she’s trying to fit in and is now thrilled to be in with the popular crowd. How can my common sense compete with that? What’s worrying me is that she will not get back on track now that she’s in with this wilder crowd. Is there anything I can do to stop her from sinking deeper in with this wild crowd?

A: There’s a bravado that comes with ruling the school and that bravado is almost always mistaken for confidence. That supposed confidence is what other students are attracted to, especially those without much confidence of their own. Of course, that bravado isn’t really confidence. We adults know that but teenagers rarely do.

At this point, rather than focusing on the negatives, focus on the positives by building up her confidence. You do this by listening, listening, listening.

I know I’m a broken record with this listening business but it’s the No. 1 parenting skill. Actually, it’s the No. 1 people skill. A good listener strives to understand and respect others and never criticizes or judges. Of course, it’s hard to do this when your teen tells you he or she is drinking but once you understand the power of effective listening, it will be easier to accomplish.

Tell your daughter that you would truly like to understand why she enjoys her current friends. Promise not to lecture or judge and say you just want to get to know her better. If you’re lucky and she opens up to you, be careful to not roll your eyes or even flinch. Just listen with compassion. This will hopefully encourage her to open up to you more and more, which will enable you to offer suggestions, tell her about your own childhood insecurity issues, etc.

Once teens feel heard and understood, they are more likely to make wise decisions.

This is more of a topic for a book than a column, but the above should at least help to open up the doors of communication, which is the first step in helping your teen head in the right direction. Remember that just because she’s making poor decisions today, that doesn’t mean she won’t make better ones tomorrow.

Lisa Bunnage is a parenting coach in the Vancouver area: bratbusters.com


Parenting Radio Show – B.M.A.D.D.

I will be doing a parenting radio program, starting October 13th, 1:00 p.m.  It’s a podcast and I believe it will also be broadcast on SFU radio station (90.1 FM).  There will be more information coming, but I just wanted to mention it again as it will be interactive, questions from listeners.

Terrance Evans is producing this show and starting out at the anchor host while I learn the ropes.  I’ve done a lot of radio but always as a guest, not host.  So I’m very excited about having full content control.

I think a radio show on nothing but parenting is not only needed, but will be very entertaining.  Not everyone has kids, but everyone has been a kid so it’s personal for everyone.

I’m very excited about giving parents a voice, letting you have your say in an anonymous and safe forum.

Here are some examples of the most common parenting problems I deal with:

  • how to discipline
  • how to bully-proof my child
  • what can I do to help my autistic child fit in
  • help … my teenager is pregnant
  • my toddler won’t eat anything but crackers
  • my kids won’t stop fighting with each other
… more information on this program coming … there’s a recording on Terrance’s website of what’s coming up.  The quality isn’t the best as I’m not in the studio during this interview.
Lisa Bunnage, Parenting Coach

Control Yourself, then Your Kids

This column in The Sunday Province was about a woman with out of control tweens with ADHD who was losing the battle of control.  I got an email from a reader (changed her name) that said I told the mom to just get control over her own emotions before she can get control over her children.  She pointed out that I didn’t tell her how to get control and that my tough comments could’ve done more harm than good.  Here’s my response back to the reader:

I totally agree with you Jane.  Coincidentally I just read it myself yesterday and cringed when I realized I sounded kinda hard.  So I picked up on that also.

That column was huge when I first wrote it and I’d had a whole section in there about how you stay strong by knowing that the positive results are right around the corner.  Short term pain, long term gain … blah blah blah.  Then when I had to edit it down for word count I completely lost that message.  Columns can be tricky as they’re short.

I’m going to go put the column on my website and add more advice as per your comments and my cringing.

Thanks so much for your email, I always love feedback from readers.

Warmly, Lisa.

I’ve written a lot of articles on discipline and am sure most of them mention that you simply have to stay calm and controlled.  It’s hard, I know, but the results are the reward.  It may be 3-6 weeks of hell but the payoff is well worth it.

I can’t really help you to stay calm and controlled, that’s a personal battle.  I’ve had to battle it myself with my son who was prone to tantrums.  I certainly didn’t always win the battle, I’d often lose it.  But I knew that wasn’t the way to go so I just learned how to not show him that I was losing it and he quickly learned that I really was in control and his behaviour showed it.

Lisa Bunnage, Parenting Coach