So maybe half the people refused to read this after the title. Because it’s not cool. You’re supposed to be fully present with your children. Because someday you’re going to miss this. Your children should be the center of your universe. Everything they say is really important.
Believe me, I listen to my kids. A lot. But they talk. A lot. And I’ve realized a lot of it is just noise. They’re just processing things out loud; they don’t actually need an attentive audience every time words come out of their mouths. And they know they talk a lot. A recent conversation as an example:
Me: “I can’t read any more chapters today. My voice is getting tired.”
My 6-year-old: “That doesn’t make sense. I talk all day long, and my voice is never tired.”
A lot of urgent conversations seem to happen when I’m in the middle of selfish, insignificant tasks such as cooking dinner or using the bathroom or assembling a clock or writing a complete paragraph of a blog post. With all these talking small people, I needed some coping strategies to cut down on the number of dubious complaints and conversations that go nowhere.
“Mommmmmm, all the papers in my bird book are gone!”
I don’t know what that means. I literally have no idea. She’s a 3-year-old in a craft room, and I’m in the middle of cooking dinner. I could ask for further details. I could dive into fixing her issue, whatever it is. Instead, I
avoid involvement strategically offer an opportunity to build problem-solving skills.
“Oh bummer! What are you going to do about it?”
Pause. “I guess I can just use the front part.”
I still have no clue, but I have just bypassed a long bird book conversation.
The key is to respond with something. Cropping a conversation is different than staring at your phone and grunting. In the above conversation, she felt understood, came to a resolution on her own, and went on her merry way. I said two sentences.
To master the art of cropping conversations, you need to have a set of responses that fit any situation…
“Hmmmm. What do you think?”
“What are you going to do about that?”
“Try that, and then let me know how it goes.”
“Oh man! I hope you can figure that out soon.”
“I’ll bet Daddy would like to talk about that. Ask him all the things when he gets home.”
OK, I’m kidding on the last one. But deflecting the responsibility of the perceived urgent issue back on the child keeps you from getting sucked in. Honestly, the true art of this is much more than avoiding chit-chat – it is being intentional about your engagement. I did not need to stop my world to discuss and fix the problem of the papers in the bird book, whatever that was all about. And she didn’t need me to.
They need to learn to wait. They need to learn to problem solve. They need to learn that some times are quiet times. They need to become independent thinkers.
There are going to be many big and little conversations, and I will gladly dive into many discussions as they grow and process life. But maybe avoiding some conversations will benefit us as well.