In Dr. Phil's Seven Tools for Purposeful Parenting, he stresses the importance of communication with your children. Sometimes, kids need to vent, to feel like they're made a case, or just have you to talk to about things that are important to them.
This tool is based on the principle that communication between parents and their children is essential for building and maintaining a loving and productive relationship. Children need to feel that they have certain power and influence within the framework of the boundaries that you've created in your family. The primary way to promote that feeling is to give them your full, undivided attention and weigh very carefully what they're seeking to convey. Listening is key.
Too often, the only communication that takes place between you and your child is when a crisis has erupted. It's important to talk about critical issues outside of stress-packed situations. The time to discuss curfew, for example, is not when the child comes home 30 minutes late. The rules should be established before the kid goes out at night. If he breaks curfew, save the discussions of consequences until the calm of the next morning when you both have clear heads. Yelling and screaming in the heat of the moment is the poorest form of communication you can practice. Sometimes when it comes to communication, timing is everything.
Children want to be heard and know that their feelings are being considered. They want to know that they can earn certain rights and privileges if they do what is expected of them. They want to have a perception of some power, some ability to create what they want.
Listening to what they say and understanding who they are gives you a much better chance of influencing who they become as adults. Click here to take the following communication audit to see how in tune you are to your child's needs, and what behaviors you might need to work on. (Adobe Acrobat is required).
For more information about Dr. Phil's Seven Tools for Purposeful Parenting, see Chapter 7 in his book Family First: Your Step-by-Step Plan for Creating a Phenomenal Family.