Have you ever had a genuine desire to learn about your child’s day, only to be met with their determination to not say a peep?
If so, how do you respond to them? Do you try to poke, prod and pry their little lips, only to get a “it was okay” or “I don’t know”?
Do you try to bribe them with some clever incentive that might motivate them to share with you? Or do you find yourself getting frustrated to the point of being angry or perhaps even feeling a bit rejected by your own child?
No matter how old your child is, it can be quite challenging if your child decides to play the “see if you can get me to talk” game. However, as both a parent and a professional family therapist, I have found it helpful to remind yourself of the original reason you are even inquiring about how they are doing and how their day went…. because of your unsolicited love for them. When we can remember that “we ask because we care”, then we have a baseline for the type of reactions we show in response to their version of the silent treatment.
To begin with, I recommend that instead of just commanding them to tell you how their day went, commit to leading with the words, “would you be willing”. Those four words communicate a sense of invitation without reprimand, as well as maintain an appropriate level of respect you have for them as an individual who may or may not decide to share their “treasures” (thoughts, feelings, experiences, etc) with you.
If you still hear nothing, try following up with words that clarify your heart’s intention for learning about their world and acknowledge the purpose and value you see in staying connected with not just them but others in your life who are important to you. Then, as hard as it may be, allow them to decide when they are ready…even if it is way past your preferred timeline.
Very similar to playing the game Battleship, the more you try to “find their location”, the more they will squirm away and hope you “miss the target”. So instead of continuing to bombard them with question after question, it is often healthier for both if you simply acknowledge they “are on the radar” and allow them to come to you when they are ready.
Finally, it is also important to finish with a statement that tells them how often you plan to ask anyway, even if they don’t answer, not because you are trying to annoy them but rather because you commit to being sensitive to their preferences, but never to the point where you stop being the loving parent you are trying to be. It is important to try to find a balance between not invading their privacy yet not abandoning them or yourself and who you want to be as their parent and as a person that you value being.
So as the school year warms up, and your child/children spend more time away from the home then at home, I wish you luck and good form in attempting to connect with you child about who they are and how they are experiencing the life provided for them.