Connecting with kids: A surefire way to get them talking

Connecting with kids: A surefire way to get them talking. Pic: Flat Icon.

Connecting with kids: A surefire way to get them talking. Pic: Flat Icon.

One of the most topical discussions I have with the leaders I work with is about connection. We talk mainly about leadership during these types of work shop, but invariably someone brings up their kids. Because, as all parents know, they are never far from your mind. They will share about their kids and how it can be harder to remain connected to them as they grow older, as we talk about their direct reports and how it can be an investment to build trust. Inevitably, all the other parents in the room prick up their ears, for they have been thinking about this very topic as well. So, I'm not here today to talk to you about ways you can build trust with your direct reports, but this topic will surely help your relationship with them as well.

We as parents want to know what is happening in the lives of our kids. We care about their well being, we are acutely aware of the differences they experience navigating a childhood in 2017 versus the one that we navigated. As a way to keep connected with our kids, we can become overzealous with the questioning. Although, all too often our investment in questioning returns a paltry series of monosyllabic answers. Which, you know, cool. But also, you know - a gaping hole of information.

A very wise friend, who writes a delicious and very successful vegan blog, Maryke, once taught me the most invaluable piece of advice. We were in discussions about connecting with kids, and how to open a conversation without peppering the child with questions like the truth finders we are (amiright?). She relayed to me the single simplest connecting with kids concept I had ever heard. And yet. Wow.  If you would like to know what is happening in your child's day, simply asking them questions often won't cut it. If this is the case for you and your child, you need a different way to connect with them.

And here it is.

When you are seeking to connect with someone, be interesting and interested.

That's right. You lead with a story or anecdote about your day (something your child will connect with) and tell your story. Then, and this is important. You stop talking. You don't expect an answer back and you don't ask your child to respond to your story. You leave the gap and continue doing whatever it is that you are doing.

When another interesting anecdote comes to mind, share it again. Again - expect nothing back.

It won't be too long before you start to receive the same anecdotes back to you. And here is the kicker - when that anecdote comes back to you, you are to be interested. That means undivided attention. It means responding appropriately - but not getting sucked into a series of questions to drill down. Make conversation by all means - but drop the questioning intensity and see what happens.

In the year or so since Maryke taught me about being interesting and interested I have used it with all different types of people. I've used it with the leaders I work with, with colleagues, senior executives, kids, teachers and with friends. It has taken me quite a bit of practice to hone the skill, and to be honest, it's still something I need to work on. But has it paid off? Yes. In spades.

How do you connect with your kids? Do you use the interesting and interested framework?