Wednesday, August 12, 2015

How Conversations in a Child's Home Shape a Child

"The most influential of all educational factors
is the conversation in a child's home."

I shared this quote by William Temple at the Hands-On Parents while Earning or H.O.P.E. Summit last Saturday, wherein I was the main speaker and facilitator.

I shared that one of my ways of being a hands-on mom to my kids is choosing to homeschool them. But I also believe that homeschooling is not for everyone.

You may not choose to homeschool your child. But you can definitely influence the conversations that your child is exposed to. That is one way of being a hands-on parent.

One of the reasons I chose to stay home full time with my children is because I want to have a lot of conversations with them. I also want to monitor and influence the kind of conversations my children would be exposed to.

The kind of conversations that a child engages in or hears at home and even outside the home will shape the child’s mind, heart and soul.

Let me share with you some of the topics that were the subject of my recent conversations with my kids.

Yesterday morning, while having breakfast with my 3-year-old son, we talked about Moses and the parting of the Red Sea. We've read this Bible story countless times and we have done a lot of activities related to it. This story made a positive impact in his young mind and heart. He actually loves pretending to be Moses (complete with costume and staff in hand).

My 3-year-old son during breakfast with him the other day.

The other day, during my conversation with my 3-year-old son, he said that it's good that it rained because plants need water, air and sunlight. That same day, he answered my question correctly when I asked him if he knows who the Bread of Life is or the Bread that came down from heaven. He immediately answered, "Jesus!"

That same day also, my eldest son who is 6 years old, my second son who is 3 and I talked about the books of the Bible. We also talked about trusting God's Word. This was inspired by the story where Jesus asked Peter to step out of the boat and walk on the water.

During breakfast with my eldest one morning, he talked about the rain and how it goes to the dams and goes to the pipes that households get water from. He kept talking about the importance of rain to help maintain the water supply of households. This conversation was triggered by the scheduled water interruption in our area and by the preparations that we made for this (filling up our water containers with water).

The people that your child converses with are powerful influencers. Thus, the quality of conversations that a child is exposed to is a big factor in the formation of a child.

It would be good to ask yourself who it is that your child converses most of the time when he is at home. Is it you? Is it your maid or yaya/nanny? What is the usual topic of their conversations?

I noticed that when my children and maids converse, the maids usually tell stories about the showbiz personalities they watch on tv or movies. They talk about the shows they have seen. They teach my kids the popular songs they like to listen to. These are not necessarily bad but I do not like my kids to be hearing about pop culture all day long. There are also concepts and topics that I would rather my kids learn first instead of these unnecesary information.

That is why I make sure my children spend more time with me and converse with me longer. I also suggest the kind of music they can listen to or songs they can teach my kids to sing. I provide them with books that they can read to my kids while I am working or doing something else. These books serve as spring board to better conversations between my children and our maids.

Now, let me enumerate some of the advantages of having frequent and quality conversations with your child.

1. You provide adequate mental stimulation to the child. Children are always learning. Even simple conversations with them are learning moments for them. They are like sponges when they are young. That is why it is recommended that caregivers talk to babies even before they learn to speak. And once children learn to speak, engage them in conversations so they could practice articulating their thoughts.

This is particularly important in our family because I have a gifted child and a potentially gifted younger child. Since my eldest son is gifted, he usually likes to talk about things or topics that are not the usual subject of conversations for kids his age. If I put him in a traditional or even in a progressive school where he is forced to interact with kids his age, these kids might not be able to discuss the topics he likes to discuss with them because his intelligence is already at a higher level even though he is only 6. 

For example, he likes classical music and he talks about the music of the masters (Bach, Beethhoven, Mozart) a lot. If I let him converse with kids his age or our maids only, the amount of mental stimulation that he needs would not be satisfied. So, I make sure that I get to talk to him about his interests and that I find other people he can talk to about these things. 

My 6-year-old playing the piano as soon as he woke up
even though he had a fever.

2. Your conversations with your child gives him an idea of what he can discuss with you or what topics he can bring up with you. You also fuel your child's curiosity and thirst for knowledge or learning. I do my best to maintain very open lines of communication with my children. I let them reason out with me and I do my best to explain things to them. We talk about almost anything that they want to talk about. That is one of the advantages of being home with them. When they have a question, they can come up to me right away and ask me about it. I can also pause from what I'm doing (most of the time) to answer their questions.    

The conversation I shared earlier about our faith is an example. By discussing these topics in our daily conversations, I'm communicatiung to them that they can talk about their faith anytime. It's not something that they can talk about only on Sundays or when they are in prayer meetings or in retreats. I love that this is the kind of culture that we are building and experiencing in our family because I want my kids to know that our faith should be lived out in every area of our life.

When my children ask questions, I do my best to answer them to the best of my ability. Sometimes, I research or look things up so I can get back to them with adequate answers. When you leave your kids in the company of maids or yaya/nanny most of the time, their questions might not be answered to their satisfaction or not at all. Some maids or yayas/nannies do not have the patience and knowledge to answer the questions of the children entrusted to them. 

3. You can build your child's self esteem through your conversations with him. I read somewhere that the way you talk to your child will become his inner voice. You can use your conversations with your child to make him believe in himself or his capabilities more.

One of the main messages I like to communicate to my sons everyday is that they can do whatever they set their minds on. I let them explore beyond what is typically expected for their biological ages. I don't want them to be limited by what was considered the norm.

For example, I let my 3-year-old play with puzzles that are recommended for kids double his age. I encourage him with my words that he can try if he wants to. We also let him play piano in a real keyboard.

We do the same with our eldest son who is a piano prodigy. We encourage him to play the pieces or songs he fancies even though these are pieces that are usually played by piano students much older than him or by adults already. We encourage him to try and learn. The amazing thing is he is able to do things way beyond what is expected of someone his age. This gives him greater confidence to keep trying new things even when he hears other people say that these pieces or songs are difficult. He doesn't easily give up. 

4. You get to know your child based on your conversations with him. I think this is one of the greatest benefits of having frequent and quality conversations with your child. You get insight into the mind and heart of your child. It has been said that the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. Naturally, your child will talk about the things close to his heart or what he thinks about a lot. If you hardly talk to your child, you would not have an idea of his likes and dislikes, what makes him sad or happy from day to day, what his dreams or plans are, what his current concerns are.

I know that my eldest son loves his younger siblings very much because I get to talk to him and in our conversations he tells me that he is learning the songs he is playing in the piano because he wants to play them for his brothers. I know that he loves God and that he has a heart for service because he told me that he is learning to play the songs in the Mass because one day he wants to serve as pianist in the church. I know that it makes him sad when there is no music during Masses and when there are no musicians serving because he whispers to me during Masses that he wished he could play the piano when there is no one to play in church. I know that he has genuine concern for his playmates and friends because one time he prayed and told me that he wished that it wouldn't rain because it was the house blessing of his friend's (our neighbor's) house.

5. Last but not least, your child will pick up or imitate the manner by which the people around him speak. He will imitate the words being used in conversations as well as the manner by which the people around him speak.

I encourage you to take time to observe your child and to listen to him speak and to really pay attention to him as you converse with him. Notice whose influence is evident. Is it your influence or someone else? Are you happy with what you are witnessing or not? In case you're not satisfied, what actions or adjustment are you willing to make?

Investing time in your conversations with your child will surely reap many benefits. But the main benefit your child will get from your regular conversations with him is the knowledge that he is worth your time and attention.

If you want to learn more strategies and tips on how you can be more present in your child's life and have more conversations with him, I invite you to check out my online coaching program called iHOPE. You may read more about this program for parents here.

1 comment:

  1. I don't have children and I would have never put much thought in this. Wow you really thought it through. Reading your blog, I can really see the value of conversing with your kids. Your children are lucky to have you. Putting so much effort in it. It's a great way to really know your kids and teach them also.