Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Children Should be Seen and Heard

"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.


Lauren@Baseballs&Bows said...

Jennifer, because my kids are still young, I am no expert. I do try, however, to include my kids in situations where they have to learn to be quiet. For example, we have always taken our children into the worship assembly with us. While this required patience and I often wondered "Why am I doing this?", the work is reaping benefits now. Both my kids are talkative and wiggly; but, at two and a half and five, they are sitting through an hour of worship and learning that it is a time to be respectful of God and others. On the other hand, sometimes when I want to meet a friend for lunch, we will meet at McDonald's just so the kids can run and play instead of forcing them to sit and be quiet. I think there is certainly a balance (as in most things). It sounds like you are raising a very articulate daughter, and I love how you are teaching her to be a part of the conversation in such a polite way!

Org Junkie said...

Gosh, my little guy is a year and a half and will not sit still or be quiet for nothing. I could use a few tips myself!! My big kids were never like that so I can't even draw from experience...sigh.


Kathy/Lessons from the Laundry said...

It's great that your daughter feels comfortable talking to adults. That is something I've really stressed with my kids. My oldest, now 13, has started babysitting. All the families she babysits for comment on how wonderful it is to have a sitter who actually looks them in the eye and can carry on a conversation. I think as parents we get caught up in the school/book work. I tell my children that grades are only half of the story. If you can understand and communicate with people your life will be full. Great post.

P.S. No great ideas for three year olds! I think they're all wiggly.

Katrina said...

Camden's always been pretty good about this stuff -- although he's quite a chatterbox and if an adult gives him an open invitation to talk, it's hard to get him to stop sometimes! But I have a feeling Logan will be another story. So I'm planning on gleaning all my information from what you learn with Kyle! :)

I love the advice you gave Amanda -- that was really great. I need to do better in teaching Camden (and eventually Logan) the art of conversation. C was an only child for so long that the give-and-take takes some effort at times. I agree that putting them in monitored situations is a great way to help them learn.

Dianne said...

I think this is a wonderful thing to teach your kids. And I love that statement about kids being "seen and heard." I think there's more truth to that (aside from the point you're trying to make here). So much to learn from kids and sometimes we just need to be kids ourselves again.

L.L. Barkat said...

I suppose we all have times when we should be seen and not heard. I guess that modeling this and even mentioning it can be the beginning of learning. And I like that you make an effort to keep your kids in the conversation and the situations. How else can they learn what is expected, what is delightful and what is bothersome?

Stephanie said...

I just finished a book "Managers of Their Homes" by Steven & Teri Maxwell. They didn't address wiggly 3 year olds but they did talk about having a "Training Time" in your schedule/routine. This is when you practice a skill, charcter trait, or chore that you want the child to learn. I'm planning to start this soon. Maybe you could have practice sessions at home to help him stretch the time he can sit still. Also, I'm not above bribery. An M & M given for still behavior every couple of minutes does wonders! = )