I’ve got some bad news for you today.
The older your kids get, the less they talk to you.
I know that if you have a three-year-old right now who sits behind you in the car and does director’s commentary when you drive, this is hard to believe. Your kid has 19 million questions about cows and the sun and bees and why does that dog only have three legs and there’s no way they will stop talking this much ever. You can’t possibly imagine a time when this word tsunami will cease.
It happens though. I promise. Slowly, as they get older, they get more private. What was once a long conversation with ups and downs turns into something like this:
You: How was the party?
Your kid: Fine.
You: Who was there?
Your kid: Everybody.
You: Did you have fun?
Your kid: Yeah.
In situations like that, especially with teenagers, I’ve often seen parents go the wrong direction. When faced with short conversations, they take the stance of: “Well, I’ll let them talk to me when they are ready.”
I do think there’s something to be said for creating a space where your kids can talk to you when they want and how they want. I think it can create a safe space and does help them feel the freedom to talk to you about anything. For instance, my wife and I have four chairs in our living room that face each other. To call it a “sitting area” would be to grossly exaggerate the fanciness of our house.
We sit there together at night, knowing that eventually our youngest daughter will emerge from her room to recap the day and our oldest daughter will come home from marching band practice. We don’t force “quality conversations,” but we’ve built an easy space where they can happen naturally.
At the same time, there are moments when we deliberately tap into a secret superpower every parent has. What is it?
That’s it. That’s the superpower. We’ve learned to consistently be curious about our kids.
Curiosity starts more conversations than criticism.
Curiosity continues more conversations than criticism.
Curiosity heals more conversations than criticism.
And curiosity usually starts with something as simple as asking a question. It’s your job to ask questions as a parent.
Want to know about their life? Ask a question. Want to know about school? Ask a question. Want to know about their friends? Ask a question. Want to know about their hopes and fears? Ask a question.
You can’t go passive as a parent or your kid will become a stranger. (I would say the same is true with your marriage, but that’s a different discussion for a different day.) It’s not their job to approach you, it’s your job to approach them. You can’t wait for them.
You have to be the conversation starter. You have to own the interaction. You have to be proactive if you’re really going to know what’s going on.
It won’t always be easy, especially during the teenage years, but what’s the alternative?
You lose touch with your kids. You end up strangers in your own house.
Who wants that?
Start slowly if you must, but ask a question.
Curiosity is a superpower.