I think I’m on #23,482 when it comes to conversations with my kids. And that’s just about one particular subject. We have lots of conversations. Sometimes it’s a dialogue, others times a monologue. But one thing I keep forgetting is that each conversation is a tiny journey within itself.
This is a typical flow of our parent/child convos:
1. Parents starts a subject. Everyone is calm. Communication is clear and thought out.
2. Someone says something a little sideways – maybe a jab, or an exaggeration.
3. An other someone gets defensive, so they respond in kind.
4. The original “someone” gets angry – conversation gets more heated, drifting farther from the original topic by the minute.
5. Possible epic blow up here with some immature word choices, or a complete shut down from one of the parties involved – arms crossed sulking expression (just to be clear this could be parent or child)
6. Someone tries to regroup and steer the conversation back to the original intent.
7. Possible repeats of steps 2-5 a few more times til someone says something that gets to the root of the issue, identify the nerve that was struck, or confesses their ownership in an offense.
8. Everyone calms down.
9. Another possible repeat of steps 2-5 (I call this the vortex of stuff that’s not actually communication), and hopefully landing back at #8 to directly move into…
10. Resolution. Maybe a plan of action, or sincere apology, but some sense of “okay, we made it.”
I have parenting exhaustion from just thinking through those steps. But we forget that those steps are there, they are real, and it’s a journey. Just like any good story-line, things start, they ramp up, there is a struggle, then maybe a little victory, or repeat struggle, then some level of ending, hopefully/usually happy-ish. We love stories. But I keep forgetting that each conversation with my teen is like a tiny story that has it’s own ups and downs. I prefer a three step convo: 1. I say the thing. 2. They listen and agree, and then 3. The end. So I get impatient as we take this communication trip. And honestly, somewhere in the midst of all of the back and forth I can feel like a parenting failure, when really I’m just in the middle of the journey. Yes, the overall big picture parenting journey, but also all the tiny (that don’t always feel tiny) journey’s in between within each conversation.
Slow down and give space for the ups and downs of your conversations. Don’t rush it and don’t jump to defeat or shut down. Hang in there. You’re going on a trip. (If you heard Little Einsteins you are my favorite!) Besides, most of these steps are inevitable, so remembering that it’s a process/journey might be helpful.