3 Communication Mistakes Parents Make

One day, I was taking a shower when my son came into the bathroom to brush his teeth. He was finishing his junior year of high school, so I decided to use that time to give him some advice about making the most of his senior year. I gave him some of the best advice a father has ever given a son. Afterward, my wife, who had been walking by, popped her head in and informed me that my son had walked out of the room a few minutes earlier—before I’d finished my speech.

We all make mistakes. Some are small, some are big. Many of them have to do with the ways we communicate with our kids. Communication plays a major role in any type of relationship we have with our kids. But despite our best intentions, communicating with them doesn’t always go well. Here are 3 common mistakes parents make when communicating with their kids.

1. Not Realizing They Don’t Hear Us

In my story about giving my son advice, the mistake I made didn’t have anything to do with what I said or how I said it. It was about timing—our kids definitely can’t hear us if they aren’t even in the room. But there are other ways timing can keep them from “hearing” us. Sometimes, they aren’t ready to hear what we are telling them. If my seventh grader comes home and is upset that she failed a math test, it’s probably too soon to talk to her about how to prepare for a test. At that moment, she may just need reassurance that she isn’t a bad student and that it won’t keep her from getting into college. We need to make sure that our kids are ready to hear us (as well as make sure they are actually in the room when we are talking to them).

2. Not Hearing Them

For me, this usually happens in one of two ways. The first is that I allow my mind to wander. I have so many things going on at work that I often catch myself thinking about my own issues rather than listening to my kids’. Usually, I don’t realize this until they are standing in front of me asking, “Well, what do you think?” The second is when I am too impatient to let them finish. This usually happens when they are making a request, and I respond with a quick no, sometimes without letting them finish. Either way, the solution isn’t easy, but it is simple. I need to stop what I’m doing and give them the focus and patience they deserve. My answer may still be “No,” but they will at least know that I listened.

Our approach to starting conversations can have a huge impact on how well our kids receive our message.

3. Not Trusting Them

Recently, my daughter was supposed to give a presentation. On the morning of the presentation, I realized I hadn’t seen her preparing, so I worried she had forgotten about it. Rather than simply asking her if she was ready, I told her how to handle the situation if she didn’t have it done. My advice wasn’t bad, but my approach was. The implication was clear. I did not trust that she had done the work on her own. (She was, by the way, prepared for the presentation.) Not trusting our kids when they’ve earned it is one the biggest mistakes parents make.

Our approach to starting conversations can have a huge impact on how well our kids receive our message. In this case, I definitely got off to a poor start. A poor start can often cause our kids to shut down. That’s why clear communication is crucial to make sure we effectively engage our kids. It ensures they understand us, we understand them, and we are on the same page.

Sound off: What are some other mistakes parents make when communicating?

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “Are there times you think I’m not listening to you?”