ASK CAROLINE: How Do You Get Your Kids to Communicate?

The Dilemma: When they’re young, kids are generally pretty open and honest by nature. But when they grow older (we’re talking specifically about those pesky teenage years here), many become much more buttoned-up. How can parents encourage their children to keep the lines of communication free-flowing through all stages of their lives? Are there certain tactics that work best, like asking questions in a specific way or choosing the right time to get the kids to talk? Or should parents just wait it out when they notice their kids becoming more closed off and give them some space?

Caroline’s Ruling: Parenting is like guerilla warfare. You dive in headfirst with all good intentions of raising a happy, well-adjusted child. Unfortunately, there is no definitive theory or rulebook to achieve that goal. So what’s the answer: How do you raise the perfect child? Guess what? There’s no answer and no guarantee.

Once you make the decision to become a parent you have to accept the responsibility that comes along with it. Your priorities need to be adjusted. It’s no longer just about you. The more effort you put into raising your child the better your chances are at achieving your goal.

I have to say my husband and I are pretty lucky. We’ve managed to raise three terrific kids. Many of you have asked how we did it, what our secret is. Very simply, we worked hard at it, and we worked together as a team. Here are some of the very basic theories that we practice:

First and foremost, we are not our children’s “friends”; we’re Mom and Dad. There’s a chain of command that’s never to be breached. We’ve never tolerated any form of disrespect.

If we disagree on an issue, we never let our children know it. It’s important to talk it out when they’re not around — they must view you as a united front.

We’ve always respected each of the kids as individuals. We’ve celebrated their strengths and worked with them to improve their weaknesses with constant encouragement and praise when it was earned.