Ask for feedback about your kids
In this column a few weeks back, we visited a question that we frequently get asked at YouthZone: What do you do if you find out that one of your child’s friends is doing something that is wrong or harmful? One of the reasons we get this question is that parents are not sure how other parents will respond if told something negative about their child’s behavior. I finished that column with a question for all readers: Do you let people in your world know that you are open to feedback about your child?I grew up within earshot of my parents saying to friends, neighbors, relatives, teachers, the postman – anyone whose paths might cross ours – that they wanted to know if their kids were doing anything out of line. I learned a few things from that. One, I realized that I was not invisible. I wasn’t going to get away with something just because my parents didn’t see it. Two, I learned that my parents were very serious about my behavior. How I behaved really mattered. Three, it was very clear that my parents cared about me enough to build a whole “village” of people around me. I also knew those people were safe people. I felt a part of a community.
My husband and I have tried to do the same with our children. The first day that Taylor drove solo, no less than three people reported to me that they had seen him driving. All reports told me that he was being very responsible. I was sure to let Taylor know what I had heard. One, to keep him on his guard for driving responsibly; and two, to share that what I heard increased my trust in his abilities.I always share these bits of feedback with my boys. I want them to be reminded that the village has their eyes on them. This is not about “let’s see if we can catch a kid doing something wrong.” It is about building a supportive community around a child.
As a kid, one can feel pretty invisible outside of home or school. It is easier to engage in inappropriate behavior if one thinks no one is watching or cares. In the same way, young people miss out on being complimented about what they are doing well if we are not taking notice of them.You can be sure that we at YouthZone have many eyes out there on kids. We are quick to say hello to young people. If we see behavior that is commendable, we acknowledge it. If we see behavior that is out of line, we call kids on it. It is what we should all do.
Give people in your world that permission. You have mine.Debbie Wilde is executive director of YouthZone.
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We can’t always put it on government to completely solve a problem, especially one with so many challenges and so much nuance such as homelessness.