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Advising Your Kids: Set Yourself Up To Be Heard

Parents since the beginning of time have worked to help their children make strong decisions as they move into adulthood. Sometimes our children hear us, sometimes, not so much. What can parents do during the early years to up the odds that our children seek wise counsel when they are grown? Read and be encouraged!

"There are a lot of people who want to work for an advisory capacity only." -Tom Wright

We love to give each other advice! We get to watch each other's lives from the cheap seats and we think that gives us the insight we need to know exactly what everyone else should do. A lot of us are surrounded by Monday morning quarterbacks. This is especially true if you are a young parent. Older moms are often filled with wisdom they long to share. I know this from personal experience. I can easily become that older mom. I'm working on this.

Older dads have a pretty serious reputation for this kind of unsolicited counsel too. Dads will tell their grown kids how to maintain their car, keep the electricity bill down, caulk around the windows and other useful things. You want to hire a professional, but your dad assures you that you can do it yourself, in your spare time, and save a fortune. Sigh.

As parents we know that there will arise in our children's lives situations that really require more experience than they have. The time will come when making a powerfully correct decision will have ramifications that will last for years. It is in those moments that you hope and pray that your children will come to you and ask for advice or at least listen to you when you make a suggestion. You hold your breath and wait to hear if they are going to quit their job, buy the new house, contemplate divorce, or make that life shaping decision. Can you help? Will they let you help? What does help look like in these circumstances?

Consider now, while your children are still young, who you listen to. If you are like me, you accept and ask for advice from people who show a genuine concern for your interests and have cared for you well across time. There are those few people who offer practical wisdom that helps without patronizing. These rare folks are worth finding. And becoming.

How can we become a voice in our grown children's ear? One that helps without condescending, offering wise counsel while respecting the dignity of our children? Here are a few tips that can be put in place today and therefore increase your odds of being heard.

  1. Listen. Really listen. Most people listen just long enough to formulate a response or an argument. If you want to be an advisor in your children's lives it begins with strong listening skills. Listen to the entire situation. Don't interrupt with solutions before you know the problem. Listen to what a solution would look like to them. The best parent advisors help their children work the problem until they discover a path forward for themselves. Help find the next breadcrumb on the path, and then congratulate them for working the problem. This process takes practice. Begin while your children are young. Do this today.

  2. Find their motivation, not yours. Even the most savvy parents are prone to believing that their children are simply carbon copies of themselves. That is simply not the case. Your children are unique in the universe just as you are. They may share some of your values but they will probably live those values differently than you do. You must have their best interests at heart in order to gain their attention. If you have spent their childhood ignoring or correcting without an effort at understanding they will be less likely to listen when you have grave concerns about their choice of spouse or career path. Pay attention to what their personal goals are. They will notice this.

  3. Resist the urge to rescue. There are times when we need to jump in quickly and rescue our children, but those times are truly rare. These occasions should fall into the categories of law breaking or life endangering. Other decisions, even when they seem really bad, can be learning moments. As difficult as it seems to watch your child hurl themselves headlong into a situation that you know will not end well, sometimes the lesson learned is valuable. Valuable enough to warrant the heartache that you experience when you watch the suffering your child experiences as a result.

So the bottom line here is that your children know instinctively from a very early age whether or not you are parenting from a stand point of convenience, guilt, or genuine concern. They know if you are listening to their heart and mind. They know if you are acting in their best interest or if you are focused on what you want them to do for motivations of your own. Shift your focus. Earn the right to speak into their lives once they are grown. You can do it! Hang in there, ya'll. It's going to be okay.

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