A couple of decades ago, when our older children were growing into their teen years, my husband said to me that, “We should not be surprised at anything our kids say.” He saw something coming, which I did not.
Communication had always been quite abundant and open at our house. We talked about everything and we talked all the time. Homeschooling through the years and nightly family dinners helped ensure that. It also helped that most of our kids were talkers!
But now the conversations were changing.
We weren’t talking about things like current events or history like the facts that they were, our kids were thinking beyond the facts and forming their own opinions. And some of their opinions were strong!
Dinnertime conversations were kept pleasant, something I personally insisted on. But after dinner, when we all worked together to clean up the mess, the kitchen became the new venue for debates, and sometimes heated ones.
My husband never seemed surprised at the kids’ topics or opinions. He often weighed in and still loves a good debate.
To my peace-loving-self, though, this was not a welcome change. Debates and disagreements spelled conflict to me. (To this day, I have to work on my own personal reaction in such situations.)
There is definitely value in encouraging our kids to say whatever it is that is on their mind. The reality is that if they can’t express their thoughts to us, they will go elsewhere to find a listening ear.
It is worth the work to respectfully listen to your children’s sometimes weird or “wrong” or whatever thoughts and ideas.
In our house, we promoted a safe place where anything could be discussed with respect between all parties in all conversations. That was always the goal anyway.
In looking back, this environment helped our kids work through some of their own ideas and opinions all while learning to communicate respectfully, even with others who disagree.
Among other professions, those debates produced two attorneys (of course!), but more importantly, they produced responsible adults who can think for themselves and communicate those thoughts effectively.
Take a minute to think about your family’s communication. If it’s not everything you want it to be, do the first thing toward getting there. Maybe it’s as simple as asking someone how they’re really doing or instituting a regular family meal. Like me, do you need to work on overcoming some personal obstacles. Or, do you need to listen more? Whatever that first step is, take it; communication is too important to lose!