This is a great week to feature another guest blog, this time from a new friend of ours, Keith Dorscht, of The Communication Cure, a dad of six who is all about helping marriages and families heal, grow and communicate better. It’s a challenge to have positive, meaningful conversations with our children, and I know Keith’s insights and tools will be helpful to you.
Superman. SUPER-man. The name says it all. Whether he is flying around the world, lifting a bus or fighting a seemingly unbeatable foe, Superman can make the hard things look easy. If you have seen the Man of Steel movie, you know what I am talking about.
What’s one of the hardest things we try to do as fathers? As a father of six children ages 5-16, I know that communication is tough—especially trying to have meaningful conversations with our kids. But too often, the talks that we need to have don’t happen. And when they do, the result isn’t nearly as smooth and life-giving as what was dramatized in the movie, when Jor-El or Pa Kent gave their advice and affirmation to Clark.
Dads, I believe we owe it to our children and to our world to master the skill of communicating. If we want our kids to know who they are, recognize and fulfill their life purpose and make the world a better place, we need to take communication seriously and learn some key skills.
One way I try to help is by developing “talks” that parents and kids can experience together. The talks are online tools that provide questions, content and cues to help create meaningful conversations in non-threatening ways.
I live in Colorado, and my talks about the tragic fires this year were very popular and valuable to families in this area. I also created three free talks based on Man of Steel that will help you address issues with your children based on the plot of the movie. (See below for links to these talks.)
But first, here are four key tips to keep in mind for better communication with your children. These will help you build stronger relationships and help them soar in life.
1. View communication as a lifelong process and not a single event.
Think of what is commonly referred to as The Talk. We all know what The Talk is, and unfortunately many of us fathers who do have The Talk with our kids never talk about “it” again … ever.
This happens across many topics. We talk about something, cover it from all aspects, and assume that our child gets it all with no need to revisit that topic as they grow older. But viewing communication as a process means you will discuss topics at age-appropriate times and continually re-visit the topics when your child reaches new milestones and experiences events in life that merit another round of discussion.
After a conversation about a particular topic, finish by saying something like, “Thanks for talking with me about your future goals. I enjoyed listening to your dreams. I’d really like to be able to talk about this again in a few months if you are okay with that.”
2. Stick to a single ‘agenda’ when talking.
Some of the best agendas you can have in mind when talking with your child or teen are: listening, learning about them, encouraging, validating and supporting them.
So, if your agenda is to learn about your child, and he shares something he did that upsets or concerns you (and it isn’t something that’s urgent), store that incident in your memory and bring it up at a later time. Otherwise the experience of learning about him and his feeling of being known by you will be lost as the focus turns to reproof or correction.
3. Don’t expect to always see eye-to-eye.
In this case, “eye-to-eye” does not mean agreeing with your child or teen, but rather having eye contact with her. Our eyes reveal a lot about what is going on inside of us as fathers, and if what you are feeling during a conversation with your child is pride in her, or joy, or happiness or sadness over something she experienced, then by all means make eye contact with her so she can ‘see’ your heart.
On the other hand, if what you are feeling is anger, indifference or disappointment, do everything you can to not make eye contact. The emotion coming from you will likely overwhelm her and cause her to retreat or attack, which is not what you want out of that time talking with her.
4. Location, location, location!
Where you choose to have a talk with your child or teen could have a big influence on whether the talk is hard or easy, so pick wisely. For example, avoid talking about serious issues in these situations: a moving car with the doors locked and windows up; in a bedroom with the door closed and your back to the door; or anywhere your child may be concerned about others being nearby who might over hear.
If you want communication to go a little easier, then try having the more serious discussions while you are walking, sharing a snack at a restaurant that has pretty high traffic and noise, or anywhere your child tells you he or she would feel more like opening up and engaging you.
These four tips might seem pretty basic, yet I know from experience that doesn’t always mean they are easily remembered and put into practice. Often, the most important factor is your commitment as a father to make communication a priority and then devote the time and energy to making sure it happens.
My online tools and resources—at The Communication Cure: Meaningful Talk … Made Easy—are all about making it easier and more natural for you and your child to have a safe, meaningful conversation.
The free Man of Steel talks will be a great way for you to get started. If you’ve seen the movie, you will be able to talk with your child or as a family about what you liked in the movie (Talk #1), how our world is full of tragedy and crisis like Clark’s world, and how your child is coping with it (Talk #2), and how your child relates to Clark’s mistreatment growing up and as a young man (Talk #3). You can get started right here.
Thank you, Keith.
I really love having these kinds of conversations with my son, Chance, and I’m looking forward to putting these ideas into practice more often.
And I’m curious about how you have experienced some of Keith’s suggestions with your kids. Do you revisit important topics with your kids? And how have you seen factors like location and eye contact affect your conversations? Do you regularly discuss movies with your kids after you watch them? Please join the discussion by leaving a message below or on our Facebook page.
Then, make sure you check out more of what Keith is doing at The Communication Cure.
Carey Casey is the CEO of the National Center for Fathering, a nonprofit organization dedicated to changing the culture of fathering in America by enlisting 6.5 million fathers who to make the Championship Fathering Commitment. NCF believes that every child needs a dad they can count on, and uses its resources to inspire and equip men to be the involved fathers, grandfathers and father figures their children need. Subscribe to his weekly email tip by clicking here: “Yes! I want tips on how to be a great dad who loves, coaches, mentors, and inspires my children.