If you’re a parent, I’m sure you get frustrated with your children sometimes. Okay, it’s probably not “sometimes”. It’s probably all the time.
Your children are disobedient.
They talk back to you.
They don’t keep their promises.
They don’t study as hard as you’d like them to.
I’m privileged to have worked with thousands of youths and parents, so I know that frustrated parents abound. I’m not surprised that many youths are frustrated with their parents, too.
Clearly, there’s some miscommunication going on between parents and children.
I’ve come up with a list of five things that many children secretly want to say to their parents but don’t dare to, because they’re afraid of coming across as disrespectful or because they’d feel awkward.
I hope this list will give you new insights into a child’s mind, so that you’ll be able to build an even stronger relationship with your children.
1. “Practice what you preach”
Children feel annoyed when their parents don’t lead by example. I dare say that this is children’s biggest source of frustration.
As a parent, do you…
tell your children not to lie, but frequently tell lies yourself (white lies included)?
tell your children not to be distracted by their electronic devices, yet you’re a smartphone addict yourself?
scold your children for being late, yet you’re rarely punctual for your own appointments?
It’s impossible to be a perfect parent, but it is possible to be committed to personal growth, and to show your children that continual improvement is something that everyone ought to strive for.
2. “Apologise when you’re wrong”
Since perfect parents don’t exist, this means that you’re bound to make mistakes.
It puzzles me that many parents I work with refuse to apologise to their children, even when these parents have made a blatant mistake.
Some examples of mistakes that parents might make: punishing their children for something their children didn’t do, or feeling overwhelmed by stress at work and taking it out on their children, or calling their children “stupid” or “useless” in a fit of anger.
If you’re a parent who wants to teach your children humility, you’ll need to suck up your pride too. After all, soon enough your children will see that you’re flawed.
It’s important to remind yourself that your authority as a parent isn’t based on how perfect you are, or how perfect your children perceive you to be.
3. “Show me that hard work is rewarding”
All parents want their children to be hardworking.
Most youths I’ve worked with, however, don’t see why hard work is rewarding. They look at their hardworking parents, and all they see is how weary, stressed, anxious and frustrated their parents are.
Many parents come home from the office and complain about their work, their boss and their colleagues. I don't blame their children for thinking that hard work results in punishment, not reward!
I spend more hours at work than the average person. I’m not so naïve to think that work is all fun and games all the time. Sometimes, hard work entails doing things you don’t feel like doing at all.
But, at the same time, hard work ought to bring a sense of satisfaction and fulfillment, because it’s the means by which you make a valuable contribution to others and to the world.
If you're a parent, I encourage you to share this gratifying aspect of hard work with your children, so that they don’t grow up thinking that hard work leads to pain and suffering, and hence should be avoided.
4. “Let me make some mistakes”
Parents think they want what’s best for their children, but most of the time they only want what’s good. (This is a point inspired by this article.)
Naturally, parents don’t want their children to experience struggle, disappointment, pain or failure. This is the path of “good”.
But is this what’s best for their children?
Most of the time, no. The best path is often the one that’s full of struggle, disappointment, pain and failure. It’s these unpleasant experiences that prepare children for enduring success.
The best path is about allowing your children to take risks and make mistakes. Of course, it’s important to set clear boundaries for them and to provide them with a safe, nurturing environment.
The key, however, is to focus the majority of your efforts on encouraging your children to dream big and dare to fail.
5. “Love me the same, no matter what grades I get in school”
Almost every student I’ve worked with has said this to me: “It seems like my parents love me more when I do well in school.”
Children who have this perception of their parents’ love often feel like they need to earn their parents’ love, acceptance and approval. This can affect their sense of self-esteem and self-worth.
Parents should, no doubt, encourage their children to pursue excellence and to always give their best effort, but parents should display unconditional warmth and love.
It’s only when children have complete assurance of their parents’ love for them that they can have the confidence and boldness to step out of their comfort zone and make the most of their potential.
When your children throw a tantrum, neglect to do their household chores, or refuse to get up for school on time, it’s not easy to keep your cool.
Being a parent is probably the most challenging job in the world!
But I hope you’ll be able to confidently face these challenges now that you know five important things that your children secretly want to say to you.
Wishing you all the best on your exciting journey as a parent and as an influencer of the next generation!
Daniel Wong is a learning and personal development expert, as well as a certified youth counselor. A sought-after speaker and coach, he is also the best-selling author of "The Happy Student: 5 Steps to Academic Fulfillment and Success". He offers programmes to help students attain exam excellence while also finding happiness and fulfillment, and to empower parents to motivate their unmotivated teenagers. He writes regularly at www.daniel-wong.com. Download his FREE e-books, "The Unhappiness Manifesto: Do You Make These 150 Mistakes In The Pursuit Of Happiness?" and "Singapore Scholarship Guide: The $500,000 Decision". The views expressed are his own.