Life can get hectic having children, but making time for genuine encounters and good conversations helps immensely.

A purposeful parent knows that the most beneficial parenting strategies start with being proactive. These parents focus on setting conditions and having procedures in place that NURTURE healthy choices thereby reducing the number and severity of behavior problems. Today, we offer one of the primary conditions to establish in your home that has the potential to influence any relationship for the better.

Establish the condition of making time spent together an intentional priority. There are an infinite number of creative possibilities for planning WITH activities. But to start you out, we will introduce one that requires minimal investment and yields high returns. And, it can be introduced with a child at any age and continue to be used indefinitely… Have a genuine encounter with your child today.

That’s right, you’re going to have a conversation! Except this time, they will be doing most of the talking. To begin, you will first need to set aside five to 20 minutes to talk purposefully WITH your child. A genuine encounter doesn’t always have to be planned, but it should be intentional.

Here are the ground rules for genuine encounters

1. Plan a time when you can give them all of your attention. No shuffling papers, doing dishes, or looking at your phone. You have no doubt had many conversations like this. However, when engaging in a true genuine encounter the conversation is the priority and they need to know it!

2. Talk about something of interest to your child. You want to make this about them and whatever they perceive to be important. You could start by asking a question regarding an area of interest or start out with something like, “Hey, why don’t you tell me how you built that ___ yesterday. It looked pretty cool!” If during the exchange they choose to go ‘off’ topic, that’s okay as long as you go with them.

3. No matter what, do not judge, criticize or correct what is said. This can be challenging especially if you’re conversing with a teen-aged child. In this case, brace yourself and keep breathing!

4. Ask meaningful questions and use statements that encourage your child to talk more. However, refrain from using the word “Why” as it can trigger a defensive mode. Instead try, “Oh, tell me more about that!” You will no doubt find out much more than you ever expected.

5. Respond with positive comments, but hold off on giving advice at this time! You can always regroup and talk later if something disturbing comes up.

6. LISTEN and ENJOY the experience. Children grow up so fast, and you will no doubt cherish these genuine encounters and be grateful that you intentionally paused and listened allowing your child to gift you with new and amazing insight into their beautiful world.

BE the person that listens and you will have a child who has a greater respect for your opinion, a child who comes to you for advice more frequently, a child who will be more likely to take your direction during difficult times, and a child with whom you will enjoy the life-long gift of a loving relationship.

About the author

Kate Martin has been a high school teacher for 27 years and retired from the Racine Unified School District in 2015.  She taught students with special needs as well as those in general education. While working with hundreds of parents over the years, she discovered that there was a significant lack of resources and educational opportunities to help them navigate the many demands of parenting today. For this reason, in 2013 she founded The Purposeful Parent, offering workshops and resources for parents, teachers, and caregivers.

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Denise Lockwood has an extensive background in traditional and non-traditional media. She has written for Patch.com, the Milwaukee Business Journal, Milwaukee Magazine and the Kenosha News.