The Talking Space: No Kids Allowed!

I recently wrote an article for the Huffington Post titled, “You Talk Too Much!  The article was born from an experience I had at a party this summer.  The experience, and the article, was completely adult-centric in nature and really had nothing to do with children.  But then it hit me, the adults whom I had encountered with such poor social and self-awareness skills we originally children who had perhaps not been taught the appropriate interaction skills.  So, I thought, maybe I should write a blog aimed at helping parents teach their young ones some social graces.  Perhaps if we teach our children how to be more perceptive of others and aware of how they are received by others, we would have less adults who have such low EQs (see my Huff Post article for EQ reference).

In my original article, I listed 4 rules of engagement for adults while socializing, but now I  have thought long and hard about 4 rules for the kiddos.  What 4 things we can teach our young children that will help them be more self-aware all throughout life.  Here is what I have come up with.

  1. “Not right now; I am (on the phone, talking to Daddy, trying to listen to something, etc)”, is not an invitation to open up dialogue.  Just because you acknowledge your child with this comment, does not mean she has the right to barge into the talking space. Rather it should be a clear sign to your child that she is not invited into the “talking space” right now. It is a signal that Mom or Dad is otherwise engaged and interruptions are unacceptable.  Training children to adhere and accept this sign starts early on in life.  It starts when you put them in a time-out when they scream when you are on the phone, it starts when they learn that even if they keep talking to you, Mom does not hang up the phone/stop talking to Dad, etc., it starts when you stress manners and etiquette in the home, and it starts when children learn that they do not rule the roost. There must be consequences to interrupting, and if there are not, you will never find a moment of peaceful adult conversation.  By the way, emergency interruptions are allowed and it is important for you to recognize the difference between types of interruptions.  Set up a secret signal with your child when the interruption is an emergency so that you both know when it is a 911.
  2. “Excuse me” is not a means of interrupting!  My dear friend and colleague, Betsy Brown Braun, an exceptionally well known child development specialist, came up with this one.  Betsy says that too many times parents teach their children that as long as the child says, “excuse me”, that the interruption is acceptable.  This is not the case.  Just because a child is polite, doesn’t mean that she can enter the adult talking space.  It is your job, as a parent, to enforce this rule of thumb.
  3. Teach your child that asking others questions is a wonderful and important way of interacting.  If you child learns early on that he/she is not the only one who is part of the conversation, the sooner your child will learn that conversations involve multiple people.  You are not always the center of attention, and asking other questions is a way of acknowledging this fact.
  4. When your child adheres to these rules and does a great job of what I call, respectful interacting, praise him!  Let him know how well he did and give him kudos.  When a child authentically earns praise then we need to celebrate that moment.  It is important to let our children know when they have done a good job and have made us proud, so go for the high five here!

A very smart student once told me that God gave us two ears and one mouth because he wanted us to listen more than he wanted us to talk.  What an epiphany and how simply put!  Perhaps if we can teach our kiddos to value their ears as much as they do their mouths, we could change the sign in the talking space from, no kids allowed, to, little mouths and big ears always welcome. 

-By Kelly Trotter King



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