Can your kids keep an interesting conversation going?
My young adult son and I were recently noticing other people’s inability to hold a conversation. Perhaps you’ve observed conversations that fizzle once you no longer carry the dialogue by asking inquisitive questions. My son works in an industry with a lot of adults, and although younger than most, he finds this same challenge. We soon discover that age, education, and leadership position are no guarantee for the ability to dialogue with others. The point is not to depreciate the person who has a difficult time with conversations, but, to ask, ‘How can I make a difference in my family to develop this life skill?’
How’s conversation modeled at your house?
Growing up, we learn basically by being modeled or taught. When were you modeled or taught to have conversations? How do kids learn to dialogue today? A healthy conversation includes eye contact, reading body language, showing interest, empathetic listening, and offering feedback. It won’t happen in front of a computer, TV or smart phone.
With my kids, dinnertimes were the best setting to have conversations as a family. (Bedtime stories and tucks-in were a close runner up!)There’s so much research supporting the value of family meals in the well-being of children. They develop a richer vocabulary; have higher grades, self-esteem, and resilience. Most likely, it’s not the food that’s making this difference but the quality interactions happening at the table. So, how can you develop your kid’s conversation skills?
8 Top Tips for Developing Conversations Skills Around the Table:
- First, study your family calendar and choose when you can all be there for dinner. (If not dinnertime, try another meal or dessert). Aim for at least three per week.
- Be interested and show interest by asking thoughtful questions. Be delighted in what delights each family member.
- Let everyone have a chance to share. Conversation is like playing catch. The ball goes from one person to another. You can teach your kids this with a ball explaining it as you toss it back and forth. There’s always a speaker and a listener (the thrower and catcher). Keep conversations flowing by teaching your kids to do both.
- Ask follow-up questions like, ‘How did that make you feel? What would it have been like if _______? Avoid advice giving, lecturing, and using a lot of ‘You should…’ statements.
- Tell funny stories, jokes, and share silly observations. Avoid sarcasm and belittling.
- Notice expressions and name them. ‘You look (worried, sad, frustrated), what’s going on?
- Offer praise, encouragement, support, and acceptance.
- If your child is quiet and doesn’t know what to say, suggest they try repeating or rephrasing the last thing the other person just said. (This helped my sweet daughter who didn’t always know what to say).
Our families have, no doubt, been inundated by all kinds of messages during their day; many of them negative. Resolve that family dinners become a sanctuary in your home with nurturing conversation. You will be amazed at what kind of adults your children become!
Building families… one meal at time,
Stephanie Allen is Co-founder and President of Dream Dinners and a New York Times best-selling co-author of The Hour that Matters Most. Naturally a visionary and optimist, Stephanie hopes to inspire America through her nurturing voice of encouragement, assuring families…
“You’re doing a great job!”