When my son was 8 years old, he returned from camp and started telling us a long, elaborate tale about part of his day. A clown came and he was selected to go up on stage. He handed him a handkerchief that was tucked into his sleeve and asked him to pull it out. In great detail, he told us about how it was tied to 30 more that came rushing out in different colors. A large grin appeared across his face as he recounted the climax of the trick in which a pair of huge bright red underwear came flying out at the end.
My wife and I smiled as we listened. For years, we had asked him what happened at school or camp. He almost always answered, “nothing” before starting to look away and yawn, indicating that he was done with the conversation. For once, we were hearing about something that interested him! We were so happy. That lasted 30 seconds until he revealed that he had made the whole story up. Then, he yawned.
Since then, we have become more creative finding ways to connect.
Here are some strategies:
Kids will fight going to sleep: We started lying down with them at their bedtime. Suddenly they talked our ears off in an effort to stay up later.
Kids like games: During dinner, instead of asking what happened at school, we started telling each other 2 things that happened and 1 thing that didn’t during the day. Everyone must guess what was true and what was false. I would have guessed wrong with the clown story above.
Kids often don’t like what we do: Talk to them about video games, Minecraft, softball, or whatever they love. My daughter recently spent 30 minutes telling me about making slime.
Kids like being superior: Have them teach you about an app they use or the meaning of memes. My son is quick to tell me that I “just don’t get it.”
Physical fitness wakes kids up: Take a walk and listen. Before long, a wonderful stream of consciousness is likely to be released.
Next, keep the conversation positive and flowing:
Let the motor run: Kids will often tell you more if you let them just talk. Multiple interruptions to ask questions can cause them to clam up.
Ask for more: Nothing shows a child that you are interested more than following-up questions that encourage them to continue speaking. If my daughter stops after telling me she hit a triple, I just ask her to “tell me all about it.”
Get Gushy: Tell them how much you loved what they told you. Let them know how you would have felt if that happened to you and ask how they felt about it. Give them a hug and actually thank them for sharing.
Hopefully this will help you spend less time begging and more time talking. We’d love to hear your tricks! Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org. Just put “Greenwich Pediatrician Tips” in the subject line, or login and post your comment below for others to see.