On Friday at The Parenting Place Play Shoppe, a 4-year-old boy had a story to tell. And the story goes something like this.
This little guy was having dinner with his family when he saw something orange on the floor. Thinking it was a carrot, dropped on the floor from the coleslaw he was eating, he bent over to pick it up – and – it was not a carrot at all, but a piece of orange play dough.
Pretty funny – huh?
I realize I didn’t do the re-telling of this story any justice because it lacked the enthusiasm and charm that this young boy had, sharing something that he truly believed was a totally funny experience.
Young children are bursting with information and stories to tell us. How many times have you heard a child say, “Do you know what?
As distracted, busy parents, however, a child’s constant chatter and questions can often become just background noise that we mindlessly respond to with an “uh huh”, or a “hmm” or no sound at all.
This type of response can actually do two things – result in louder, incessant talking to try to get your attention, accepting even negative attention or discouragement, or, giving up on sharing altogether.
Conversation and sharing “do you know whats” offers children a secure sense that what they have to say is important – that they are significant. The time to nurture and mature this attitude and practice is when a child is eager to tell us things, in their preschool and early grade years.
The benefit of taking the time to be a good listener early is to strengthen the bond between you and your child when young in preparation for having a stronger and comfortable connection during his/her more private teen years.
I noticed a dad and his young son ( striking physical resemblances) of about eleven years old come into a family restaurant recently. They appeared stiffly formal to me. They looked at menus – no conversation – they ordered – no conversation, ate their food – no conversation, and then paid and left. The silence between them was deafening to me.
Granted I don’t know the circumstances of this lunch but I felt the awkwardness that surrounded them.
I encourage all parents of young children to lend your ear as often as you can. Engage in conversation with your child, offer direct eye contact, respond to their information and recognize this time as a special opportunity. When you are truly too involved to be able to take the time needed to listen, tell your child this and that you are interested in what they have to say and set a time when you are available to be able to give them your attention.
Dinner table conversation is a great time to encourage sharing and listening. Notice I included listening. At the table, everyone can have a chance at telling their story (parents get in on the act too) . Everyone gets heard and everyone gets to listen.
Young children’s ability to do both is still quite primitive. Telling a story about an incident or experience as well as listening to another’s story, is an art – the art of conversation – and it takes time to mature and develop. The dinner table lends itself perfectly to the opportunity for children to reveal experiences, feelings both humorous and serious, in the safety of the family circle.
This young boy at Play Group piped up right at the end of our circle time with his eagerness in telling us his story. I’m glad I noticed him, made the time for his story. I believe this little guy’s spirit and confidence grew a bit more that morning when he knew he was being listened to and his story was appreciated by the group.
“Do you know what?”
Enjoy the stories your child wants to tell you.
It’s worth it!