Taking an Interest in Your Child
During the Summer months, there is enough time to sit hand have a heart to heart with your child. However, once the school year begins, time evaporates, and we find one-on-one time less accessible. We come home from work, have to deal with dinner, homework, taking out the dog, as well as washing the day off your child. By the time everyone is settled down, it’s time for bed and to repeat the process tomorrow.
Throughout this process, we can forget about the nurturing process that a parent is responsible for. Now that school is in full swing let’s address a few things to help you maintain that connection with your child in the midst of everyone’s hectic schedule.
We have discussed in the past about asking your child questions to find out about their day and homework assignments. Taking an interest in your child goes beyond keeping up with what is due on Friday. It goes deeper than a “fine” answer to, “How was your day?” With one-word answer questions, you do not learn anything about how the day really went for your son or daughter.
Open-ended questions require at least a full sentence to respond to. Questions like:
- Tell me one thing learn today that you didn’t know yesterday?
- Tell me about something that made you smile?
- How were you creative today?
- Who did you play with today/sit with at lunch?
Open-ended questions not only give you information about your child it helps them to think about their day and what stood out to them. Without accessing this portion of their memory, the cannot learn to appreciate the good or to learn to correct the bad.
The key to a good open-ended question is to listen open-endedly. Asking the question without really listening to the answer is like pouring a glass of water without the glass. Without a receptacle to receive the information, it just gets all over the place, doing no good at all. Truly listening is taking attention off what task you are doing and placing it solely on the speaker.
When you listen to your child’s responses, listen to them completely. Let them finish a thought; even it is the most ridiculous thing you ever heard. A lot of things go through the mind of a child. They are figuring out their feelings about life. And the things you and I know, are different to them. What we may feel as simplistic can be a serious, complex issue to them.
Don’t Minimize Their Feelings
Most of the time answers to these questions will be glowing and filled with third-grade rainbows in white puffy clouds, puppy dogs, and big red hearts. These moments it is good to help your child focus on how they feel. To mentally record the happiness, they have at the moment. It will help on a bad day when the answers are less enthusiastic and filled with dark storm clouds.
Never discount anything your child tells you, especially if it is about how they feel. When we minimize how our children feel about what is happening in their life, we are telling them how they feel is wrong, or doesn’t matter. Comments like, “Don’t be ridiculous,” “Don’t be silly,” “That is dumb,” or “Don’t worry about it,” can put a cap on their communication with you. No one wants to be told their feelings do not matter or are not real. If your child is telling you their feelings about something, then they are truly feeling that way about what they are telling you. Or their best interpretation of how they feel. Remember, they are just learning, they may not truly know how to express that emotion yet.
Sometimes the Best Advice is…
After a bad day, and a bad day to a child could be their best friend didn’t sit with them at lunch, or the teacher called on another child to answer a question in class. Remember a minuscule situation to us can be a serious issue for your child. First, hear them out. Of course, your gut reaction will be to tell them how silly they are. Don’t do that. Sometimes the best advice is no advice at all. Sometimes the child just needs to vent. You can help them along by asking even more open-ended questions.
- Why do you think your friend did not sit with you at lunch?
- Why do you think your teacher called on the other student?
You will find that as they answer the question, they will find out on their own the level of seriousness. You may find that the reason their bestie did not sit with them is that they did not get to the cafeteria at the same time and that the lunch lady directed their friend to somewhere else. You may find that your child answered two other questions before the one she was not called on to answer. Once you get to the root of their feelings, then you can give some guiding parental advice.
Taking an interest in your child goes deeper than a “fine” answer to how their day went. We opened with that thought. And it is still true, and hopefully, you have a bit more insight on how that is true. The more we talk with our child, especially through open-ended questions the more they will learn about themselves and what makes them tick. The back and forth conversation will teach them to appreciate the good days and to work through the bad days.
Always rejoice with your child after a good day. Always empathize with your child after a not so good day. The younger you develop these bonds the better. If you keep that door of communication open and give them a reason to turn to you while they are young, then as they grow older you will always be the first person they think of when faced with the real serious issues of life.
I live in a small town in South Central Texas with my wife Carolyn and our four children. We attend the local First Baptist Church where we have been serving for 8 years. I drive a truck in the transportation industry and I pursue my writing career in my spare time. I have a passion for writing, and I plan to use my voice to glorify God.
In addition to my freelance work, I have a series of Children’s books that will begin to be released starting in June of 2018. I also have written a novel that is currently being edited. I look forward to sharing it sometime in 2019.