Saturday, May 12, 2012

Listen more, Speak less

Once I was chatting with my daughter's former dance teacher and asking her how my daughter was doing in the class, since my daughter rarely mentioned what she did there.  I was more than a little shocked when the teacher commented that, of course, my daughter doesn't speak much about the class, because "small children don't have the means to reflect on things". As someone who works with children, I know this to be completely untrue. Even toddlers can and do reflect on a regular basis. Sadly, we adults often miss these golden moments, because children most often reflect in non-verbal ways and need time and space to transform their thoughts into words. 

At the recent Godly Play conference in Belarus, Peter Privett gave some helpful hints at how to draw children out and allow them to process verbally. His main advice was to "listen more and speak less". A helpful thing to do is to count internally to seven before answering a question or comment. We adults always think that we need to fill the empty space in conversations, but children often need that space to get their thoughts out before we inadvertently change the direction of the conversation by jumping in too quickly. 

Another practical thing to do when a child asks a question is to gently "throw the question back at them". In other words, don't answer the question for them right away and assume you know where they are going with the question. He gave the example of a little boy who asked him what kind of car God drove. Peter paused and then asked, "What kind of car do you think God drives?" The little boy thought for a moment, answered that God probably drove a Volvo, and this led to a deeper conversation between the two of them about the kinds of things that God likes. 

This should be a no-brainer, but it is important never to laugh at children, even if we are just "laughing with them". Even if we think a particular answer sounds cute, the child may be getting at something deeper than we realize. Children definitely want to be taken seriously and will stop conversing with people about spiritual things if they feel that they are not. 

Okay, please know that I am learning these things, too, so I hope that this doesn't sound judgemental in any way. I kicked myself quite a few times when Peter spoke about what not to do, because I had done almost all of them.: )  Let's just agree to listen more and speak less with the kids we walk with, okay? 


  1. Great advice, thank you. I often exchange little giggles with my mom when one of my girls says something we think is cute but I'll need to be more aware from now on! Thanks again!

  2. Oh yes, I need to work on this too. And wonderfully helpful advice from Peter. Thanks for sharing it.

  3. Glad this was helpful, ladies!