When Kids Talk, Adults Should Listen

Dad and me on Easter Sunday

“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I will learn.” ~ Benjamin Franklin

“I believe that what we become depends on what our fathers teach us at odd moments, when they aren’t trying to teach us. We are formed by little scraps of wisdom.” ~ Umberto Eco, Foucault’s Pendulum

“At the end of the day, the most overwhelming key to a child’s success is the positive involvement of parents.” ~ Jane D. Hull

I think learning to communicate is a rather difficult thing to do, especially if you are constantly being told to shut up and listen. We are supposed to learn communication from our parents and siblings. Some parents are fantastic at teaching this skill, others not so much. But I believe most parents want to have clear lines of communication with their children, they just don’t know how because they were never taught.

My youngest sister, Celeste and I have been talking about writing a book about how we learned not only good communication skills, but critical thinking, and understanding human behavior from our conversations about movies and TV with our father.

When I suggested writing this book together, I didn’t have a clear idea of how we could structure it, except to reconstruct the questions Dad used to ask us after watching a movie. This morning it came to me what genius practice my father, and mother too, used to keep the lines of communication open with us even through our teen years.

The secret is: They were truly interested in our opinions.

I was proud of the fact that we had the “cool” parents. Our church, and even school friends liked coming over to our house and hanging out because our parents were interested in them. They wanted to know what they were doing in school, what their passions were, and what their plans were for the future. Our friends loved that they could ask questions on any subject and our parents were willing to talk about the ins and outs of any problem. That wasn’t always the case for them at home.

My father in particular was fantastic at exploring every facet of an issue. He was never afraid to say that he didn’t understand all the implications of a situation. And he and my mother were also willing to tell us when they had been wrong.

I think Celeste will agree with me when I say, I always felt safe in our home, because I was a valued by my parents.

One of the primary ways our parents taught us good communication skills was by watching movies as a family and then discussing them. It was a fun and non-threatening way to examine why people do what they do, how to look at the deeper implications of events and then try to find meaning in them. And it gave all of us an easy way to learn to communicate with respect for every family member’s opinions.

Because our father watched movies with us individually as well, Celeste and I watched the news with him. It wasn’t particularly comfortable watching the news when we were growing up. There was lots of unrest with the Civil Rights movement, and all the violence surrounding that, the Vietnam War and the protests against that, and the women’s movement for equal rights. There were so many opportunities to ask questions and discuss current events with Dad that we learned to think critically about the motivations of politicians, business owners and even everyday people who did not want things to change.

The thing I remember most about having a discussion with my father was the constant questions he would ask himself and me as we watched together. His questions invited both Celeste and me to think and I will be eternally grateful to him for that.

So, Celeste and I are going to write this book. We’re not sure what we’re going to call it yet. It will be part memoir, part guide to talking with and listen to children. I’ve learned from my students that sometimes they have more wisdom than we give them credit for. And as far as Celeste and I are concerned, we can always use more wisdom in the world.

Thanks for reading, liking and commenting. Have a glorious weekend, and if you live in the U.S., don’t forget to vote.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2018

Lucinda is the author of The Space Between Time, an award finalist in the “Fiction: Fantasy” category of the 2017 Best Book Awards. It’s a historical, time-travel, magical realism, novel, and is available in all ebook formats at Smashwords, or you can find the ebook at iBooks or Barnes and Noble. If you prefer a physical copy, you can find a print-on-demand version at Amazon. Stay tuned for news on the audiobook version Lucinda is working on. To join her email list, click here. She will never sell the names on her list.

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