Sunday, March 30, 2008

How do we talk to our children?

A chance comment from a fellow shopper at the grocery store Saturday got me thinking about how my husband and I talk to our kids. She said "I love how you talk to your kids. It's so cute." Ever since, I've been trying to reconstruct our conversations in the produce section that prompted a stranger to tell me that. I'm still a little mystified.

I usually consider myself not terribly great about how I interact with my kids. I hear my kids talk to each other or to me and hear echoes of the bad habits I have influenced them with. They are soooo good at getting that annoyed tone of voice that I have used on them. The oldest is getting pretty good at my "I mean business" way of barking orders. I tend to beat up on myself about how I need to be better about how I talk to them.

In my defense, I do try to talk to them about everything that we do and let them know what I'm doing. If problem topics come up, I try to talk about them using truth and simplicity at the age level they need. I try to use good manners myself in hopes that they will copy me in that. I make a point of telling them that I love them several times a day.

So what was going on at the grocery store that was notable? Well, first of all, the whole family was there. Usually I go by myself or with just the baby so that it isn't nearly so chaotic. Tim usually stays home with the older kids. But last Saturday, we had a different schedule and decided to try it as a family for a change. To our oldest two, who don't get to come as often, it became a great adventure. I think what the stranger in the store saw was both Mommy and Daddy talking with our kids as we got things from our list. They only things that I can think of that might have been noteworthy were the fact that our kids were giddy with delight at being there, that the girls were actively helping us shop and that they were making suggestions about what we should buy(I think we should get some more grapes, Dad!). We were all having an adventure and enjoying it.

I will try to come up with some lessons to take away with this:

Ahem...

  • We as parents need to lighten up.
  • I was so obsessed with the bad behaviors, that I wasn't seeing the good behaviors.
  • Kids like to live like life is an adventure. We grown-ups are the party poopers too much of the time.
  • I definitely need to take advantage of every hint of helpfulness my kids display.
  • I also need to enjoy those good times because they all come to an end. By the time we were going down the last aisle before checkout, two of the three kids were in tears and we were getting sympathetic comments instead.
So, I hope this gets you thinking about how you talk to people. I probably would never have noticed this unless someone took the risk to tell a stranger what they thought. (By the way, have you ever noticed how people are more willing to talk to you when you have kids with you?)

1 comment:

Karen Gibson said...

People are more willing to talk to you when you have young children with you, say under 8 or 10. Not so much when you have teens with you! Now bring a cute little granddaughter with you and everyone will talk to you!

I think people are just not used to seeing parents interacting intelligently with their children, really listening to their advice, talking to them as equals (or near equals) rather than talking down to them. At least this was my experience with my three children.