How to get my kid to open up

Updated: May 26, 2020

My teenager was more short-fused than usual. She was irritable at dinners and would stay in her room on her phone for a few days now.

"Shut up! Why must you be so loud?" she lashed out at her sibling over dinner.

I was upset.

No, I was enraged. She has been leaving dinner tables as soon as she finished her meal, was completely uninterested in dinner conversations and this final straw of lashing out for somethings so trivial broke my back.

We hardly spend time as a family and dinner-time is when we share. Her actions could have been interpreted as defiant, a negative role model and unacceptable.

"She just needs love. She just needs love. She just needs love." I kept repeating the mantra till I calmed down in my room.

Then, I cornered her along the walkway after dinner and asked what was going on.

"Nothing" she muttered with a frown.

Because I was now calm, I could look beyond her angry scowl.

I opened my arms wide, gesturing for a hug and she rolled her eyes. Reluctantly, she walked into my arms and I told her :"I'm so sorry. I miss you. We haven't been connecting as much as I would like to and I haven't made it a priority because I've been so busy. But, I realised we haven't spent our MBS time for a week now. Shall we just spend some time talking?"

She teared.

We walked to my room, closed the door and told everyone we didn't want to be disturbed for 15mins.

"What's bothering you? You've been unusually impatient and I'm sure that not something you like either. What's really troubling you?"

As we both laid on the bed looking at the ceiling, she opened up.

It was her exam week and she was tired. More importantly, she was afraid she would fail her maths because the paper was difficult.

I smiled at her. Reassured her that it really didn't matter whether she passed or fail, and that I still loved her.

She breathed a sign and something lifted. She did not even know that was what was weighing her down. Now that she had identified her fear, it left.

We continued to talk about her school and minutes later, she emerged an angel. She apologise to her sibling for lashing out earlier and called everyone for bedtime that night.

I am humbly reminded that under all the misbehaviours we are quick to chide our kids for, is a child waiting to have her emotional tank filled up. The best part, they don't know they're running on empty. When was the last time you made time, exclusively for your child to share in a safe space where they won't be judged?

Maybe the reason why our kids don't open up is because we are always correcting them, telling them where they fall short, disciplining them.

When, all they need, is someone to confide in. Someone who would not judge. Someone who would accept them including all the parts they are not proud of themselves. We could be that person for them. Or they will go to their friends. Either way, that internal human need to feel accepted will be met. Hopefully by us, not someones else.

What are you motivated by? What are your inner needs as a human being? They are more than food, water and shelter. Identifying our inner motivations help us understand why children behave the way they do. Adults too. The truth is we all have the same needs.

Watch YouTube D.A.T.E.S for an insightful, practical video on how to connect with my child.

Modern Asian Mother looks at how to recognise their inner needs in "The Naked Parent." Grab an e-book at for an insightful read.

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