Getting Our Kids To Talk

One day you are playing, laughing, and having a great time bonding with your toddler on the floor.  Then, the next thing you know that happy-go-lucky toddler is now a tween and running up the stairs, slamming her bedroom door shut just to keep from talking to you.  In the back of your mind you are thinking, “Where did I go wrong”?

Don’t worry!  What you are experiencing is completely normal.  Children go through different stages in their development and as a result, so does their ability to communicate.  They go from learning to say words, to repeating everything they hear, to slamming doors to keep from talking to us.  Communication, though, should never stop.  It is vital to keep the lines of communication with your child open at all times.

Getting our children to talk to us is an ongoing process, and it begins at birth.  When your newborn cries, you pick him up, which communicates to him that you are there for him.  As you listen to your toddler sing, and then sing along with her, you are saying, “I am interested in who you are and what you are doing”.  When you pick your elementary school age kids up and ask how their day was, you are communicating to them, “I care about you and want to know the things you experience.”  As your teenager sulks in her seat and lets out a big sigh, you reach over to squeeze her hand and say, “I am here for you.”  These gestures let our kids know that we have been there for them from the beginning, and want to continue to have a close connection with them.

Of course, sometimes there are breakdowns in the communication, or it simply stops altogether. Especially as children get older, they become more private and less likely to open up to their parents.  Some of this is because they do not know exactly how their parents will react, other times it is because they do not know how to put into words exactly what they feel.  Remember, kids tend to shut down if parents begin overreacting to what they are trying to say.  Rather than give a lengthy explanation, they would just rather not deal with it.  When talking with your child, there are some key points to take into consideration:

  1. When they initiate conversation, drop everything and respond.  How you respond is crucial to creating and maintaining openness.
  2. Let your children vent, and let them figure out their own solutions. You can help brainstorm ideas, but in the end children have to solve their own problems.  In doing this, they will be more likely to seek you out the next time they have a problem.
  3. Do not get angry.  Our children need us to stay neutral, and they want us to remain calm and collected.  Remember, closeness to your child is your priority.
  4. Reaffirm how much you love your children and how you appreciate them coming to you.  Let them know that you always want to have a close relationship with them.

What can you do if your children will not initiate conversation? How can you get them to open up and talk to you?  Start by talking about something that interests them.  Ask them about their favorite football team or their favorite music video.  Children are more likely to talk when they realize that you are interested in the things that are important to them.  This builds trust, and nurtures the close relationship that we as parents strive for.  The more they feel like they can talk to you about the little things, the more likely they will open up about the bigger issues.  There are some things to remember when they do begin to open up.  First, be completely available to them, and this includes turning off the cell phone.  Listen closely to what they are saying without interrupting.  Be sure to ask nonjudgmental questions.  Do not ask “why” questions, no one wants to feel like they are on trial.  Do not press them to say more than they want, just be thankful for what they did share.  If things get a little too heated, take a time out.  If you want your child to continue to talk, you must remain calm.

If you want your relationship with your child to continue to grow, then you have to make time for them.  Be sure you take time to connect with them everyday.  Also, talk to them in private; they do not like to be ambushed in front of an audience.  Get in their space, such as watching a football game or playing “Just Dance” with them.  When you add special time into your daily routines, kids will begin to view this as an opportunity to open up.  Parents, we must refrain from spying or snooping.  Yes, you need to check your children’s social media accounts and texts, but you cannot purposefully seek out others to gain information on them.  If you do happen to find something on their social media, do not immediately attack your child.  Give him or her a chance to own up to it and talk about what happened.  Sometimes kids may find it easier to open up to you in a text rather than in person.  Do not be offended if this is how your child feels.  At least they feel comfortable enough to open up to you, no matter the form.

Talking with our children is vital.  Positive communication builds self-esteem, and when we listen to them, they feel important and loved.  Being able to communicate with our children can also help protect them from danger.  Open communication makes them less susceptible to peer pressure and better able to handle hard decisions.  Once they are in their teenage years, communication is especially important.  If you have a close relationship, your teen will be more likely to open up about the important things such as relationships, school, sex, and drugs.  Our prayer is that they will come to us, instead of either turning to friends or social media for guidance, or just dealing with it alone.  I do not know about you, but I want my children to take their father and me for granted because they know that we are and will be there for them.  I pray they go to God first and us next.

“Children are a gift from the Lord, they are a reward from Him”         Psalm 127:3

Family Bonding Time

We have all seen the TV shows with the happy family sitting around the kitchen table, and a beautiful dinner being shared over busting conversation. As wives and moms, when we see this we can’t help but wonder, “Is this really what family life is supposed to be like?”  The answer is yes and no.  Yes, a family is supposed to spend time together and talk to each other, but no, it does not have to be over a beautiful, time consuming dinner (pizza delivery works just fine).  The most important thing is that you are bonding through family time.

Now you may be asking, “How in the world are we supposed to find the time to have family bonding, and is it really that important?”  Yes, it is vital to your family relationship that you make time out of your busy schedules for family bonding.  If you are like me, you are probably thinking that you already have plenty of family time. After all, we have 2 or 3 football games a week, we drive them to and from practices, we drive to and from school everyday, and we all ride to church together, is that not enough?  Well sadly, no it is not.  You may be in the car as a family, but you are not spending quality time with each other.

You see, the quality of time is more important than the quantity of time. Quality family time consists of the parent talking, listening, and bonding with their children.  Instead of just being a chauffeur, show genuine interest in their lives.  Children can sense when their parents are present and available to them, and this creates a sense of belonging and security for your child.  Also, build your children’s self-esteem through praise and encouragement.  Instead of constant criticism of their faults, draw attention to their good qualities so your children feel proud of themselves. Finally, no matter what their age is, hug them, kiss them, and show affection to them!  Your kids should always know that you will always love them, no matter the circumstance.

I know in today’s busy world that many people are working more and more hours, and adding endless lists of activities onto their schedules.  It is because of this that making time for quality family bonding is essential.  We do not even realize the huge influence family life has on our children.  It is during this time that our children learn how to deal with relationships, cope with certain situations, and learn valuable life lessons.  This is also when we can take the time to instill in our children positive family values.  Remember, if values are not being learned at home, they will be learned elsewhere.

I want to be clear that quality family bonding time does not always mean sitting around the dinner table every night.  Trust me, I know that is not always possible.  However, it does mean making a commitment to adjusting your schedules at every opportunity to allow for family time.  Of course, at first you may get a few raised eyebrows, but don’t worry about how this looks to other people.  God calls us to be radical and different, and there is nothing more radical in today’s society than slowing down and intentionally spending time with your family.

Exactly how you spend the time is completely up to your particular family. There is no right or wrong, just make sure it is quality time.  You may decide to watch a television show, read a book together, play a board game, take a hike, or just sit and talk.  Use this chance to enter your child’s world.  On some occasions, you may want to let your children choose how to spend the family time.  And yes, it is perfectly OK if they choose video games (we have had many fun, family nights playing Mario Chase)! But, whatever your family decides to do together, you must commit to it.  As you spend more and more time togther, you will see a very special relationship of trust and acceptance develop in your family.

Quality time needs to be a priority for yourself, your marriage, and your children.  One of the ways to make sure that you are spending quality time is to worship together as a family.  Teaching your children about Christ and the gospel will will make a major difference in their lives.  If Jesus is the foundation of our families, what else do we need?

Family bonding can also be achieved by taking advantage of and savoring life’s ordinary moments.  The next time you are driving your kids to school, have everyone put their devices down (or if you are like my car, turn the music off) and have a meaningful conversation.  Ask them how their day was, what is going on with their friends, or if they have questions about anything that they have recently seen or heard.  Or the next time you share a meal together, start it off by asking each person one thing they would like to pray about, and then pray for everyone’s requests.  Just make the most out of every opportunity you get.  Our children will not stay young and under our roofs forever.  Cherish and savor each and every moment that God has given you together as a family.



To Chore or Not To Chore

As a substitute teacher, I see many things that makes me raise an eyebrow or do the whole face in palm action.  Recently though, the most troubling trend has been the lack of responsibility kids take.  Whether it is keeping up with their backpacks, turning in their homework, or studying for a test, the lack of responsibility is overwhelming.  They would rather put the blame on someone else, than admit that something is their fault.  They might not be able to tell you where their backpack is, but they can sure tell you whose fault it is.

These kinds of situations make me question if as parents, are we raising an irresponsible generation?  Building responsibility in children starts at a very young age.  How many remember singing or still do sing, “The Cleanup Song”, as we remind our young toddlers to put away their toys?  By teaching children to put away their toys, clothes, or even their shoes, we are helping them learn to take responsibility for themselves. One of the best ways to teach this is by assigning children specific chores to do. Of course, it may not be a good idea to let your three-year-old empty the dishwasher or wash the knives! So when deciding on what chores to assign, make sure they are age-appropriate.

Performing chores not only teaches our children responsibility, but also the value of work.  If they learn this concept now, it will not be as difficult for them as they get older.  Understanding the value of work allows them to prioritize whatever occupation they have in the future, as well as striving to build a strong marriage.

Assigning chores to children makes them feel needed and important. My kids love the idea that they get to help their mom and dad around the house. Chores also teach our children the basics of kindness and empathy. When children are assigned chores, they get to see just what it takes to run a household, and even better what it takes to keep it running.  The truth is there is always plenty more that needs to be done.

Some of the chores that my kids have been given include feeding and watering the pets, putting away their clean laundry, emptying the dishwasher (I leave this to my 12 year old daughter), cleaning their rooms, picking up their shoes, picking up their video game clutter, and putting away all their toys.  Just recently we have taught our 14 year old son to cut the weeds around the house, and I am working on teaching my 12 year old daughter how to do laundry.  Notice I said working on.  It is still a work in progress, let me tell you.

Michael and I also feel that chores teach our children obedience.  When they have been told something to do, they are to do it without arguing or grumbling.  Now, this does not happen all the time.  If anyone knows my 9 year old, then you certainly understand! However that is our goal, and what we are trying to accomplish.  My children do know that there are consequences to not doing their chores, just like there will be consequences to not completing their tasks in the workplace.  Of course, if you decide to set consequences, they need to be age-appropriate and fit your family dynamic.

In the end you have to decide for yourself if chores are for your family or not.  If you do decide to assign chores to your kids, you will have to make the decision of how many, how often, and what specific duties you will have.  To help with that decision, below are some charts of age-appropriate chores.  Hopefully, you will find some that fit well with your family.  Good luck and happy choring!