Teaching kids to communicate

A few nights ago, one of our twin boys snuck into bed with us.

When that happens, we dive into a very difficult cost-benefit analysis: Is it worth the fight to get him back to bed over the possibility he’ll kick us all night long?

We decided to deal with the kicking.

But then, the other twin pops his head into our room and asked if I was going to come tell him good night. I ended up getting out of bed anyway.

I went to hang out with Jake and have a little bedtime chat.  Then he said he didn’t like sleeping in his bedroom alone. His bro always is in there with him.

An idea struck. I conned older sis to come in and sleep in Sam’s bed. I said, “You guys chat it up and have a good time!” All went well.

I tell that story, not because it has a crazy ending, but because of where I got the idea.

I’ve been listening to the Parenting on Purpose Podcast over the last couple months.  I highly recommend that you click on that link and go check out a few episodes.

One of host Bob Barnes’ favorite stories is how his daughter and his younger son would sleep in the same room every Friday night from the time they were little kids through when his daughter graduated high school. I believe the son was a freshman during her senior year.

From listening to the podcast, I believe this practice, from early on, was jokingly forced on the two, but it became something they looked forward to.

Dr. Barnes said that he heard what sounded like crying one time during her senior year. The two siblings were sad that it would be the last year they could keep their Friday night tradition.

That’s why I thought of sending Maggie in there with Jake. I doubt we’ll start a tradition, but it seemed like a good idea – both to help Jake feel a tad more comfortable, but more to offer an opportunity for them to have a bit of brother-sister communication in a unique situation. A late night random sleepover.

The point: Teaching kids to communicate seems to be all around giving an opportunity for kids to communicate.

If we simply shut down devices and provide space, kids will talk. My experience is with pre-teens (10 and 8 year olds, currently), but I’m guessing even a crusty 15 year old might succumb to the sneakiness of screen-free open space for communication.

The problem is, it will take time.

We can’t expect to try these things once and hope the kids become fountains of personal sharing.

We must look for opportunities to get them in these situations. Heck, we gotta look for opportunities to get us into these situations.

Then we need to back off. Let things happen. We need to mix and match (dad-son hang time, mom-son date nights, dad-daughter date nights, mom-daughter hang time). Dinner times, drive times, etc.

Take time to allow for time. And start asking questions and sharing our own stuff and putting our own phones down. Admit it. As bad as our kids can be, we’re way worse about the smart phones. I personally confess this. You should too. It’s freeing for the soul.

While you give this a go, I HIGHLY recommend listening to each of the 10 parts of the Parenting on Purpose podcast series on communication. You can click here to go to the podcast’s website. Or reply to this email and I’ll help you figure out how to get the podcast on your phone if you’re not used to that.

Happy communicating!



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