Dear reader, it is my great privilege to introduce a new guest contributor here at Homeschooling without Training Wheels! I officially met Sarah Moulson when her husband was called as the Assistant Pastor of our church. I am now blessed to think of her first and foremost as a dear friend.
As former teachers and now homeschool moms, she and I have enjoyed some great discussions about educational philosophy and practice. And now I’m delighted that she’ll be joining us here to share her thoughts!
Many, many moons ago, as part of a college linguistics course, I spent time studying the differences in the ways in which men and women communicate. I recall a particular experiment where two chairs were placed in a room and a pair of women or men was sent into the room to have a conversation while the researchers observed their interactions.
A pattern quickly emerged – the women would turn the chairs so they could face each other while they talked, but the men would usually sit side-by-side facing the same direction as if they were watching a movie together. It was explained that women create an emotional bond through conversation, so they want the personal connection of direct face-to-face interaction; men, on the other hand, often find that type of arrangement to be too intense and instead prefer to focus on something outside of the conversation as they communicate.
Communication through Outward Focus
Many parents have experienced a similar phenomenon as they attempt to communicate with their older children. The teenager who won’t say two words when he’s sitting across the dinner table from you will suddenly start asking tough life questions as you drive him to sports practice. The middle schooler who cries at the drop of a hat but refuses to talk about what’s bothering her begins to open up about her fears and insecurities as you bake cookies together. There’s something about sharing a common focus outside of ourselves that causes the walls of the heart to crumble and the words to start flowing.
When your children are younger, finding a way to discuss big ideas with them doesn’t have to involve long road trips or whipping out the Betty Crocker cookbook. The simple act of curling up in a comfy chair and reading a good book together is an excellent way to take something that is separate from both of you and use it to draw you together.
Books as the Outward Focus for Talks
Here on the blog, I’m kicking off a new series called Children’s Tales for Grownup Talks. Each month I’ll be discussing a handful of picture books that can be used to open up the pathways of communication with your child in regard to some of life’s most difficult subjects.
Sometimes these books will address the issue in a very direct way; at other times they will contain more abstract ideas about the topic. Similarly, depending on specific situations in your own life, you may need to use the books to begin a very frank conversation with your child. At other times, you may just work the stories into your usual read aloud rotation and trust that, with frequent exposure, the ideas will begin to take root in your child’s heart. Allow your child to ask questions and make observations, and book-by-book you’ll be building a path into his inner world.