I asked my kids this question. They had no idea what I was talking about. I tried to explain more. They still couldn’t fathom what the big deal was, why kids wouldn’t want to talk to their parents. I took that as a compliment, thank you very much!
We’ve always wanted to set up a precedent in our home of talking. For a couple of introverts, this had to be worked at and incredibly intentional. I’ve learned that I truly am an introvert at heart. I like quiet. I like home. Did I mention I like quiet? Of course I love getting out and having fun and chatting it up with my besties but I can only do it for so long before I need time to recharge. Even vacation with my family is trying. And I love them! But 3 days in I need silence. I need a walk by myself or a few hours with a book in a coffee shop, just me.
So my natural tendency is quiet. In the vehicle, quiet. Snuggling with them in bed, quiet. It really took teaching myself how to talk to them and they in turn have learned to talk back.
I think the most important thing is that we set up time to talk in our days. The kids don’t know we do this, it’s just a natural part of our days, but its there. We have a 15 minute drive to school and back each day. That’s 30 minutes where we are stuck within a meter of each other! Perfect talk time. Besides, there’s nowhere else they can be at that point so they aren’t eagerly trying to get away on you!
My husband also does this with the boys at bed time. Because I see them from morning until night and he sees them for a half hour at best on week days he is the one who puts them to sleep. Now of course, my boys are 13, 11 and 9 so they don’t actually need putting to sleep but we do it anyways. It’s time where they are all cozy, again, they’ve got nowhere else to be and the longer they can get daddy to talk – the later they get to stay up!
So they all cozy up in one bedroom and they talk. He reads whatever part of the bible they happen to be working through, they talk about things that they need prayer for or can be thankful for and inevitably this leads them to talking about their day.
Which brings me to my next point, asking about their day. If I ask any of my boys how their day was they will say, “good.” every. single. day. With no information! So I had to get clever and devise ways to get them to talk more. So I ask questions that require more than one word. Things like, on a scale of 1-10 how was your day? And if they answer 8 I’ll say, “Why not 10?” or “What kept it from being a 2?” So they have to think back on their day and answer plus it just feels like a game to them.
Or I’ll ask them to tell me about something funny that somebody said at school that day. Or who they played with at lunch. Or if their teacher was really angry and did nothing but yell all day. All of these end up in them talking about their day. And the more they start talking, the more you learn.
We had also decided very early on in our parenting that we wanted to be very approachable on every level. If our kids had questions, concerns, thoughts and opinions – we wanted them to be free to ask us without being laughed at, scorned, judged or gotten into trouble. We wanted to be thoughtful and pay careful attention to whatever they brought our way.
We started conversations on ‘untouchable’ subjects early. They all get a ‘sex talk’ with dad before they go into grade 4. (p.s. if your kids haven’t heard it from you by grade 4, they’re learning it at school. You’re welcome) Each summer after that before they go back to school they get a next level talk, depending on their maturity and needs as individuals. What we feel they’re ready for and what they can comprehend appropriately.
They’ve also learned through these talks that no matter what they hear at school, it’s a good idea to run it by us because chances are they’ve got wrong information. We’ve corrected a few things that were….well, both funny and horrifying all at once!
We talk about drugs and addiction, we talk about marriage and divorce, we talk about what they want to be when they grow up. We talk about how to treat others and how it feels when you’re treated poorly. We talk about music and why some is appropriate and some isn’t. We talk about theology after we watch movies and how everyone has a world view. Pretty much, we talk to death!
As a result, they talk back. They are interested in being a part of the conversation because we keep the conversations interesting! They know that no matter what question they have or what they’ve done that they need to tell us, we’re hear to listen, to encourage, to affirm, to guide, to challenge, to re-educate and to set straight.
In love. Which I believe is the key. If we fly off the handle (I sometimes do) and we get angry (guilty as charged) our kids are going to hesitate in coming to us because they know what’s coming. My husband is so calm and he has set this tone in our home when issues arise. And our kids know it. ‘Member how you were scared of your Dad when you were 12? Yeah. They’re not. Not because he’s easy on them (he’s not!) or because he doesn’t discipline (he does!) but because they know that he isn’t going to smack ’em or tear a strip off them or belittle them for what they’ve done. He’s going to listen. He’s going ask questions. He’s going to open his bible and he’s going to show them what it says. And then he’s going to talk about the grace and mercy of Christ and this is probably where he’ll get most passionate and even shed a tear. And they know it. Because this is where he leads them, where we try to lead them, every single time.
So our kids aren’t afraid to talk to us (most of the time!) Because they know the worst that’s gonna happen is that we’re going to take them before Jesus. Before his throne of grace. We’re going to show them what repentance looks like. What forgiveness feels like. And we’re going to hug them and tell them we love them. No. Matter. What.
And then we’re going to take away their skateboards, ban them from video games, sleepovers, ipods and fun in general for an appropriate amount of time. ha.
**I hesitate to ever give advice on here but I am happy to share what we do when asked. Not that it’s the best way or the only way, just OUR way.