I blew it with my kids the one night a little over a year ago…
The worst part about it is that I didn’t realize it until after I had started to get mad at them for a situation that I have helped create… hindsight can be a bitch…
My kids have noticed that when my wife and I get together with other adults we tend to talk… that conversation is the adult form of “playing at a friend’s house”. My kids have been fascinated by this because they haven’t understood how conversation could in fact be fun, as it is so much less like a game, Lego bricks, or Nerf battle regalia.
Unfortunately, I have failed to notice their interest in actually participating in our conversations. Too often it seems that I have dismissed them to go play with their friends… or to go play with their toys… or to just go….
In return, they have tried even harder to insert themselves in our adult conversations, and here is where I blew it…
Instead of recognizing their attempts to be part of the conversation and teaching them proper conversational skills, I dismissed their behavior as kids being obnoxious. So, after a brief visit with a new neighbor, during which I finally sent them to put on their pajamas so that my neighbor and I could get a word in edgewise, I laid into them.
“My response to them was described by my oldest as akin to stabbing him in the heart, at which point a very deflated pair of boys began to deliver a slice of humble pie as only karma can provide.”
I went on and on about how unimpressed I was with their behavior. I elaborated on how I have raised them to behave better. I made sure it was clear how I was embarrassed that our new neighbor had to see them act that way.
My response to them was described by my oldest as akin to stabbing him in the heart. It was at this point that a very deflated pair of boys began to serve the father a slice of humble pie as only karma can provide. They told me how they thought that we had been having a good time and that they had been enjoying being in the conversation.
When I tried to tell them that they need to make space for others in the conversation, they said, “but you never make space for us…”
They went on to point out that if they didn’t try to interrupt that they would just sit on the couch and it would be very boring for them.
“These are two kids that love meeting new people, that love being social, and I had just sucked the wind right out of their sails…”
I felt like such an ass for not recognizing their interest and not realizing that I had put them between a rock and a hard place. These are two kids that love meeting new people, that love being social, and I had just sucked the wind right out of their sails…
Fortunately having made this realization I had a chance to try and correct course.
We talked for a bit about how conversations work. We talked about how you have to take turns in a conversation. We talked about how sometimes you may not get to share a good point you have because by the time it is your turn the conversation has moved to a new topic. We talked about polite ways for you to let others know you’d like to contribute. Finally, we talked about how you need to contribute what you want to say within a reasonable amount of time and then stop and give the floor back to the others in the conversation.
We ended by making a deal with each other:
- They would make an effort to politely let me know when they want to contribute.
- I will recognize those attempts and make sure to give them time in our conversations to contribute.
- We will work together to help them develop good conversation skills.
So far it is working out well and their contributions to our conversations are getting better.
(This post originally appeared on The Good Men Project )