Letting Kids Lead the Conversation

     At Camp, we keep a quote book at each of our sites where staff members write down the hilarious and random things that campers say throughout the summer. Reading through these quote books often makes me laugh until my stomach hurts, especially if there's a group of staff around to reminisce with. Here's a sample from one of the quote books that I dusted off recently:

No offense, but you have hairy legs.
Camper: “Do you live with your mom?”
Counselor: “Yeah...”
Camper: “Does she say anything about your mustache?”
Counselor: “No, why?”
Camper: “‘Cause that’s just wrong!”
Camper 1: “Why do you have a bump in your throat?”
Camper 2: “It’s an Adam’s apple.”
Camper 1: “What’s that?”
Camper 2: “I swallowed an apple named Adam!”
“My neck looks like a large intestine!”

     Kids say crazy things; that seems to be a law of the universe on par with gravity or losing a sock in the laundry. What's amazing to me is that the funniest kids are never the ones who try to make you laugh. The funniest kids are the ones who share their honest, unfiltered, unbiased thoughts of the world around them. They're exploring their surroundings, experimenting with the boundaries of their knowledge, and figuring out how things work. Their questions and observations that make us adults laugh are helping them to understand the world.

     As parents, we enjoy this child-like quality in private settings, but we're often quick to shut it down in public settings. Disagree? Read through those quotes again and imagine that your kid was saying something like that to your boss. How about their teacher? What about the President? You'd probably immediately apologize and send your child off to play somewhere far, far away from the adults. I'm guilty of this feeling, too. In all my years working at COCUSA, I'm always the most anxious about kids' behavior when other parents are around. I feel personally responsible for every word each camper says, and I've been thoroughly embarrassed on countless occasions. 

     To be sure, there are times when kids cross the line and need to be corrected. But what if we took a new approach in responding their crazy questions? What if instead of putting a stop to it, we let kids' questions lead our conversations? When your son tells your coworker that they have hairy legs, you can affirm their observation by saying something like, "That's right, God made all of us a little different!" When your daughter says that her neck looks like a large intestine, take the opportunity to ask where she learned that and talk about how God put our bodies together (of course, you should laugh together first, because that's just funny).

What if we let kids' questions lead our conversations?

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     I think the reason we shut down this kind of talk in public is because we are worried that our peers will judge us for how our kids speak. They are, after all, tiny versions of us. If we removed our pride from the equation and embraced the random, chaotic curiosity of our kids, I think we could encourage our children to be life-long learners. Answering their silly questions now will help them to ask better questions later. It will also prove to them that we are trustworthy sources who they can come to with their questions, no matter how simple or complex they may be.

 

When have your kids embarrassed you with their questions? Share a funny story in the comments!