How to Earn the Right to Be Heard
All too often a father only speaks to his children when they have done something wrong. Start talking to your children about difficult subjects when they are young so that these kinds of talks will be easier when they are older. Take the time to listen to their ideas and problems. (Taken from NFI’s best-selling brochure, 10 Ways to Be a Better Dad.)
Here's a couple age-specific suggestions for how you can earn the right to be heard with your children:
For Dads of infants and toddlers:
- Say “I love you” early and often: It’s never too early to start letting your children know you love them – even while in utero, babies can hear your voice. Get in the habit of saying “I love you” often so it becomes a regular part of your communication with your children at every age of life. That will go a long way to earning the right to be heard.
- Praise your child: Just like you should start the habit of saying “I love you” early in your child’s life, start praising and affirming your child now. This will build a foundation of self-esteem and confidence that will enable you to say the hard truth when your child needs to hear it later in life.
For Dads of school-aged children:
- Ask your kids questions about themselves: Make it a point to intentionally ask your child something every day that will help you learn more about them. Ask who their best friend is, what their favorite subject in school right now is, what they do with their friends after school, what they want to be when they grow up. Let them share their thoughts and affirm their dreams and aspirations. As you understand who your child is as individual, you will be able to engage them in important conversations in a way that will connect with them personally.
- Start discussions about important topics at a young age: Talk with your children about the importance of choosing friends wisely, spending money responsibly, and having the right priorities. Don’t preach at them – instead involve them in conversation by asking questions and role playing. Having conversations about these topics will make it easier to talk about more touchy subjects, like drug/alcohol use and sexual health, when they are older.
For Dads of teenagers:
- Make them a partner in the conversation: Whether you’re talking about current events in the news, what’s going on at your teen’s school, or having a serious conversation about family policies, make your teen an equal partner in the conversation. Ask them what they think, let them voice their thoughts without interruption, and take their ideas into consideration when making decisions.
- Respect them and love them: If you want to earn the right to be heard, your teens need to know that you respect them as an individual. Yes, they need to earn that respect by being responsible, but you need to give them the opportunity to demonstrate that they can be responsible. However, your love should be unconditional. Make sure your kids know – by your words and actions – that you will love them no matter what. Your voice will be received more openly when teens know they are respected and loved.