"Children should be seen and heard."
That's one of the mottoes at Amanda's school, as an obvious contrast to the earlier philosophy that "Children should be seen and not heard" (and I think before that the mandate was that they were neither seen nor heard!).
I do value my children's opinions and feedback. I want them to be able to discuss a disagreement without it always seeming like they are just talking back. It's a fine line. I want them to be able to join in our conversations at the dinner table--asking questions, contributing their opinions, sharing a story.
Last weekend we went out to dinner with a young couple with no children (not for the next week or so anyway!). Amanda was participating in the conversation in a very polite and interesting way (one thing that I love about her personality is that she's not afraid to talk to adults). She was sitting quietly and said sort of under her breath, "I want to talk, but I don't know what to say." I suggested that she could tell Mrs. W. about the fireworks she saw in Washington D.C. Then I had an even better suggestion: "Why don't you ask her if she saw any fireworks, and then I'll bet she'll ask you if you saw any, and you can tell her."
I could do a better job at the fine art of conversation myself. Helping her learn small talk caused me to actually put some thought into it and probably taught us both something.
It struck me that by including our children in different social situations, we really can teach them these sorts of things. They also learn that fine line of when it's okay to talk, and when it's better to remain quiet. Being able to sit quietly in these kinds of situations is an important skill for them to learn, but it is an area that I know Kyle (who just turned three) has not learned. When I have to attend a short assembly at Amanda's school, or some type of meeting, I know that I usually cannot do it with him there. It rattles me too much. There is definitely a time for the "children should be seen and not heard" rule, and it's something that he and I have a hard time dealing with.
I would love to hear any tips from parents of children who are loud and wiggly by nature if you've had any success in this area, or if you're just hopefully waiting it out like me.