Nothing trumps a good conversation. Only a ten minute conversation (with a person you have just met) too has the power to energise you, make you feel great and take on the day...carpe diem! Conversation is a meeting of minds, a catalyst for innovation, a sharing of memories and emotions, and the most ingenious way for humans to bond!
But with the advent of smartphones and tablets, conversations have shrunk to monosyllables. How was school? Good! Did you have a good time? Yeah! What time will you return from your friends house? Nine-ish.
If you are anything like me and love a good conversation and the food for thought that it can offer, here are some ways to bring lively conversations back to the dinner table and make kids into great conversationalists!
Ban monosyllabic answers
Ban words like 'Yes' (or even worse, 'Yeah'), 'No' (or 'Nah'), 'Boring' and 'Whatever' from the house. Any question that is asked by parents, grandparents, neighbour, aunt, uncle, cousin should receive more than these monosyllabic answers. For example, when grandma asks, "Did you enjoy at the picnic?" Instead of just a "Yeah" say, "Yes Grandma, the picnic was great. All my friends had come. We went to a water reservoir that had dried up a few years ago. But by planting lots of trees around the area and making it a no pollution zone, the authorities were able to revive the reservoir. And now during winter, hundreds of migratory birds visit this site. It was awesome!"
Learn to share, share to learn
More often than not, we ask questions but rarely answer them beyond a brief "Yes, it was fine." After you have asked your kid how was her day and received the answer, go on to describe your own day. "I went to the supermarket today. Bought everything on the grocery list - Flour, sugar, rice, tea... oh and I bumped into Niyati's mom there. She is off to Delhi tomorrow. After she returns we will plan a picnic, sometime next month. It was great meeting her. But the line at the bill counter was crazy. However, it did not matter as we were busy chatting."
You sharing tid-bits from your day will not only help you connect with your kid, but also help her learn how to express herself, how to turn the mundane into something interesting. This is also a great time to share those pearls of wisdom as a parent. But keep it to the point and concise. Otherwise you will receive the inevitable, "I am bored mom!"
Encourage kids to ask questions and intently listen to the answers. Gone are the days when it was believed that children should only be seen, and not heard. When you are entertaining family or friends at home, avoid strictly bifurcating kids area and grown ups area. Encourage children to mingle with the grown ups. If your friends had recently been on a vacation, inform your child about it beforehand and let them read about that place in a magazine or the internet. Then when the guests arrive, your child will have insightful questions and relevant talking points for a delightful tête-à-tête with the guests.
Read, Read, Read!
Encourage children to read - it may be blogs, newspapers, magazines, pamphlets, packaging boxes, anything they can get their hands on. If they are too young, you read to them. Reading will give them the raw material required for fascinating conversations.
For example, if you come across an article about solar power in the newspaper, read that article to your child and explain the concept of solar energy. Once she understands the concept, every time she will hear the word solar, she will proudly share her tid bit of knowledge to a discerning audience.
Dr. Seuss says it best, "The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go."
Great conversationalists are often believed to be great talkers. Take Socrates, for example, he transformed casual conversations into full-blown quests for philosophical truths. But great conversationalists are also powerful listeners. Mahatma Gandhi, the father of our nation or His Holiness the Dalai Lama are both powerful leaders. But, what is it that they have in common? They are both avid listeners.
Encourage kids to actively listen. It may be a great conversation you are having with a guest at home, or a speech by an eminent personality on tv. It is as Malcolm Forbes of the Forbes magazine says, "The art of conversation lies in listening!"
Brilliant conversations are just waiting to happen. Just encourage kids to read more, ask more questions and genuinely be interested in listening to the answers with an open heart and mind. And as for the topic of conversation, the sky is the limit! Go ahead, strike up a conversation and bring back wit, wisdom, and joie de vivre to human interactions.
Also read: 6 Ways to raise a Self-reliant child