Remember Joan Rivers saying, "Can we talk?" in that smoker's, accented voice? I think about that sometimes when i wonder if my kids know they can talk to me about anything. As a kid, i remember knowing when i screwed up, but never really getting positive feedback. Sadly, i seem to have adopted that parenting style myself.
I struggle with a critical nature, and that must make it tough for my kids to share their innermost struggles or feelings. I have been focusing on it more, and trying to retrain myself. My 11-year-old and i are fighting our way through this right now: i'm trying to learn patience, watch my tone, and encourage her as much as i criticize; and she's trying to find her way (as well as tolerate me). :)
Recently, my son and i have been dialoging quite a bit about his behavioral concerns. I have tried bringing up my concerns and asking him questions whenever we have time alone. Tonight, i found how much progress we have made when the other kids were sleeping and Daddy was out and he opened up the communication lines about his behavior: how it makes him feel, during and after, and why he thinks that is, as well as some ideas he has for what his problems might be. For an eight-year-old, he had some mature insights.
It was a beautiful thing, though, to hear his heart, to know he thinks about these things and wants to share them with me, and especially that he was confident that he could come to me to ask for my help. It also cemented why it is so important to have quality alone time, even for just a few minutes, with each child every day. It is far too easy to let the day get away from us and not make that effort, but nothing worth having is ever easy, right? And the beaten-down path is never really the one we want.
So, i'm going to struggle up the less-traveled path, machete in hand, making my way through the obstacles, and building relationships with my children above all else. Outta be quite the adventure! :)