It’s Not About The Strawberry Ice Cream (Episode 162)
You want a connected conversation with your children; they just like strawberry ice cream, end of story. So where do you go from there?
Building on last weeks' theme of having a connected conversation with our children, we elaborate a bit more this week on how to do this...especially when you're dealing with short attention spans and/or or a one-track mind.
This is an organic process. Time is a huge part of building connection.
Special thanks to Jodey Smith for helping me with my new podcast intro!
Last week we focused on the 3 steps for connected communication - and we got this feedback from podcast listener Chris:
I listened to the podcast and really liked it. I have a 4 yr old and I try to converse with her. It's tough because of attention span and if I ask the next level deeper question I usually don't get an answer. Example: I ask her what her favorite ice cream is and she says strawberry. I ask her why and there's no answer 🙂 I do other things like looking at her when she talks and putting the phone down when she wants to ask me something. BTW the new intro is cool!
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Here was my answer and what we unpack even more on the podcast episode:
Thanks for listening, Chris! I feel you - at four, their personality style is coming out and their attention span isn't fully mature, so she could be ready to move on or just not a chatter! 😉 I wonder if, instead of "why", you could rephrase it to "tell me more..." or even add in a little affirmation, like, "oooh, I love strawberry, too! What does it taste like to you?"
Think of the words that are her currency. Is it praise? Or affirming and supporting her? Or maybe it's gratitude/appreciation? Think of how you can add that in to your questioning so she also is drawn in because you are speaking her language - this is where you can move from an interview to a connected conversation! 🙂
Love that you are stopping and fully focusing on your daughter - you are showing her that she is a priority in your life!
Meet Them Where they are
When I was a new parent really struggling with my toddler's temper tantrums and how to "fix" it, a friend told me this: "just meet her where she's at."
This was a real eye-opener to me. Instead of first coming in with my own agenda, I simply had to show up and join her headspace and get a feel for where she was. This past week I shared an InstaStory that said "You can't speak butterfly language to someone still in a cocoon."
Are you speaking a language that resonates with them? Are you checking in first and seeing where they are - are they fried, tired, hungry, upset? Are they distracted and focused on something else? Are they stuck in a mindset you need to address before you can move forward?
And remember, silence is white space for the mind.
Reframe your "why"
Sometimes asking a "why" question can open the door to conversation...or slam it shut by feeling like an attack. Maybe you reframe it to, "tell me more..." or "can you help me understand what you mean by that?"
Think about their language currency - is it adding in more praise or power statements? Is their personality style one that is drawn to a challenge, to affirmation, or to humor?
Think about the why behind your question - is it really about the question you're asking, or is it about the actual question? Like Nathan discusses in the podcast, it's about finding the right tap where the conversation flows. Sometimes you have to tap around a bit to see what will work.
The One-Track Mind
Maybe you have a little artist at home who just wants to draw and create all day long, no conversation needed. Or one that just loves animals or toy cars. Can you really do anything with that, or is just a kid being a kid?
In our 48 Days Eagles Community, we've recently gone through some Eagle's Nest micro-groups where we work on different skills. Brian Mays was in a writing group and shared a piece he wrote for parents who have children interested in visual art.
Here were some key elements I loved in what he wrote:
- Art needs to be a focus, not a fallback. If your child loves to draw or paint, let them! Don’t try to hide the artistic inclination away in favor of more “practical” skills and paths. Minimizing the amount of time spent working on their craft will not set them up for success. "Practice makes perfect" applies here!
- Art can be presented in a multitude of ways: Many people think of art as something that hangs in galleries and has to have a buyer stumble upon it. But go to the grocery store and walk the aisles, looking at the packaging. The breakfast cereal aisle is a great choice. Visual artists create what’s on all the boxes, bags, and sleeves in front of you. If it’s in a package or has a label, someone with artistic skill was paid to create it. Art is everywhere, from the packaging on store shelves, to clothing hanging on the rack, to graphics and renderings on television commercials, to movies and video games that show us fantastically imagined worlds and characters. Artists were paid for that work. Once you begin to notice how prevalent art is in our everyday lives, the more opportunities you’ll see available for your artistic child.
- Support their growth with growing quality. It’s often said that the violinist is more important than the violin when it comes to creating beautiful musical composition. The same holds true with visual art, to a point. However, the cheaper the tool, the quicker it gets used up and the less it performs as desired. Nothing is more frustrating to an artist and will cause them to give up more quickly than cutting costs on materials. You don’t need to purchase the top-of-the-line paints or paper for your young artist who is just beginning. But after working with beginning materials for a while, graduate them up to something that can let them grow. They may start with a set of colored pencils from the local bargain store, but graduating up to the more expensive colored pencils at the art store will allow them to experiment further. The materials will pay for themselves and allow them to stand out.
It's not Just About Art
You can use the example of art, or replace all of this with whatever "one track" passion your child has. Can you develop it organically where it builds way beyond something simple? Could playing with Legos be a perfect opportunity to get into conversation and learn more about engineering and architecture? Can a love of animals lead to exploring something incredibly specific, like ophidiology, or open up to a whole month of research on developing an exotic pet boarding center?
From basic art and a basic love of animals, and having these connected conversations along the way of our functional education journey, here is what developed:
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In our podcast this week (episode 162), we shared about how Clara’s love for art and animals has built on itself so much that she’s created full business plans and ideas around a bunch of entrepreneurial ventures. It’s amazing what questions come up that lead her down one path or another, and it’s incredible to see how she learns, creates and innovates in the process. Be sure to add in conversations with your family this week that are driven by only one goal- to get to know each other more. Ask questions you’re curious about and see where it leads. In our desire to learn more about what our kids are interested in, the curriculum or lesson plan for school is often created as we talk and brainstorm! #kickinitunschool Where have your conversations with your kids taken you this week?
Some additional resources for you
- How Do I Talk To My Kids...and Beyond? (Episode 161)
- 7 Seconds will change your communication and connection (Episode 62)
- Mom to Mom with Joanne Miller: The 5 Pillars of Respect (Episode 145)
- How can I get my kids to respect...and like me? (Episode 159)
- What we have here is a failure to communicate!
- What is your goal?
- Discuss, but never argue
- Tension Points That Cause Couples To Argue
- Communication, Connection and Prioritizing – Where is Your Spouse In Your Life?
- Chaos of the Heart – Rawness Equals Connection
- Namaste – On Truly Hearing Each Other (Episode 149)
- How to Nip Parenting Struggles in the Bud (Episode 76)
- Bathtub Boundaries with an Ocean of Love (Episode 15)
- Self-Love, or Self-Sabotage? (Episode 152)
- Parent Styles – Are they helpful or harmful? (Episode 102)
- How do I equip my kid to “adult”? (Episode 89)
- Learn more about DISC Personality Styles
Your Weekly Challenge:
Have a connected conversation...not because you're coming with an agenda, but by opening the door for dialogue. You're only going to be able to control one side of this conversation. So let go of how the conversation will show up, and address it as it comes. Remember this is a process that ebbs and flows, and we may bumble around in the process - but remember the goal of connection.
You may start with a question about strawberry ice cream...and end up down the road of learning about the digestive system, or sustainable farming, or who knows! That's the process of discovery you can do throughout the conversation.
It takes major effort to lay down roots with our kids - not the roots of "this is how and what to think", but the roots of connection, give & take, forgiveness, growth, love and respect. These are the roots that have slow growth that will continue all through their lives. And the wings...means giving them the independence to know what it feels like to fall, so you can better stand back up. Practice letting go and allowing the mystery of who your child is unfold as they spread their wings. It isn't always a smooth journey, but it's definitely one you can explore together. Just like a flock of ducks flies together, it still takes each one learning to fly on their own. And in that journey, we can truly see how the uniqueness in each of us strengthens all of us.