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How to Maximize Spontaneous Conversations with Your Kids

Mother with laptop talking to daughter in bedroom

Has this ever happened to you? You’ve created space, time, and margin for an important conversation with your child, but he has exactly zero interest in talking to you. His answers revolve around nonverbal shrugs and the occasional one syllable. He's not having it. You try to engage, you probe while acting casual, but it’s all like pulling teeth. Then, though, while you’re on the phone with someone else, he interrupts with important things to say. Or you’re in the bathroom for some peace and quiet and a little business of your own, and he's knocking on the door with homework questions. Or, the magic hour in our house: after bedtime. Nothing turns my kids into transparent, chatty philosophers than their own bedtime curfew. Talk, talk, talk.

Not every moment is conducive to conversation on their terms. But when your kids want to talk, take the bait. Whenever it is at all possible, sign up immediately. Dive right in. Those windows close fast and furious, and we need to listen as fast as we can. It can be tempting to feel like your child is wasting your time with the distractions of something that seems trivial to you, when you’re feeling the pressure to get dinner on the table, finish the grocery list, shoot off one more email, or pay the bills. But spontaneous conversations are a pure gift wrapped in a fleeting package.

Spontaneous conversations fill your child’s emotional bank. Anytime you embrace the opportunity and take the time to listen, you’re showing your child a positive experience with communication. This strengthens your relationship as your child remembers your empathy, care, approval, delight, and response to what matters to him. Engage the conversation, and make a deposit in his Love Bank.

Spontaneous conversations keep your friendship above water. If, by and large, most of your conversations with your child are positive, this will carry you through the stormy bad days of disagreements. Your daughter may be mad at you, but she will be more motivated to extend the olive branch and restore the peace if she can remember those positive moments you’ve shared together.

Spontaneous conversations strengthen connections. We all want our children to know we are there for them, in their corner, on their team. These conversations remind them that they are protected, that they have a safety net. Our children need our input, though they think their peers know all there is to know. Show your child he can talk to you, you will listen, and you won’t overreact (so practice your straight face in the bathroom mirror).

Spontaneous conversations pave the way for communication in a crisis. If your child knows she can approach you with smaller things, then you’ve laid the groundwork for her to feel confident to talk to you when she’s hurting. We want our children to look to us when they’re in danger, so this means we need to pave the way by being consistent and approachable when the sun is shining in a cloudless sky.