This post might better be entitled:
Growing Children Into Adults Through Verbal Interaction
but, that is such a “technical” title when really this concept isn’t technical at all.
I’ve been reading Let Us Highly Resolve by David & Shirley Quine for a homeschooling Bible/book study I am participating in this year. In Chapter 3, the Quines tackle the subject of helping your child move from childish reasoning to mature, adult reasoning (1 Cor 13:11).
First of all, let me preface what I am about to say with a statistic from the book that surprised me, keeping in mind this book was written in 1996…
Research studies show various trends of movement from childish to adult levels of reasoning…children being taught at home begin to reason abstractly between nine and ten. Children being taught in [public or private institutional settings] seem to make this transition between 15-20 years of age.
My educated guess as to why there is this huge discrepancy between these two educational models is that one is parent-driven and the other is peer-driven. Which brings me to the meat of this post.
In this same chapter, Quine speaks briefly about including your child in adult conversations, rather than isolating them from such interactions. This is a concept I have struggled with off and on before finally arriving upon what I feel is a happy medium.
Now, you all know I am a huge proponent of dialoguing with your child on everything under the sun; however, when it came to my children listening in on adult conversations, I wasn’t so sure I wanted to go there.
Adults often talk of things that children simply cannot grasp. Some of these things can come back to bite you. For instance, my 12 year old son is forever only getting half the conversation right when he listens in. He later repeats something from the conversation totally out of context, making it sound very odd, if not downright harsh.
There are also topics which come up in adult conversations that are not for children’s ears. Because of these two factors I hesitated to let my children sit in on any adult conversations for fear they would either misconstrue what they heard or hear something I wasn’t ready to explain.
After much thought, Ty and I decided to strike a balance…one that both fosters adult reasoning in our children, but allows for private adult conversations to go on without immature ears around.
When we have company or we are company in someone else’s home, we allow our children to sit in on the conversations for a certain amount of time and then we ask that they leave the room. For instance, my 12 year old will often be allowed to listen (occasionally contributing as well) for 30 minutes before we require he leave the room and either find something else to do or entertain the little ones. He continues this back and forth as long as the adults are visiting. This way he gets a healthy dose of adult-ness while allowing the adults a more open conversation without him listening in.
In addition to this, we make sure we immediately tackle any difficult vocabulary he may hear right then and there. Later, we discuss the conversation with him to clarify anything he might be confused on. It doesn’t take long to do this. The end result has been a young man who feels, thinks, and tries to act (with the occassional 12 year old-ness thrown in) like a young MAN, rather than a perpetual child.
I’ve also made it habit to “talk big” to my children. I’ve used big words and then explained those words. I’ve introduced tough concepts without hesitation. If they don’t get all of what I am saying we either go over it until they do or pick it up another day. And most importantly, I’ve tried very hard not to speak “down” to them. This is mostly a tone of voice, rather than the actual words you are speaking. I’ve always spoken to my children in a tone that suggests they are able to speak on an adult level…even when the topic of conversation is nothing more how many cups of sugar the cake needs.
And finally, I ask my children for input. When I rearrange the furniture or rework homeschooling strategies, I ask them to throw out ideas and help me brainstorm solutions. I don’t always use their ideas, but I do genuinely care what they think and they know it. This teaches them to reason on a more adult level because mommy is truly interested in their “adult” ideas. You should see my children step up to the plate when asked their opinion on something! It does a mama’s heart good to see such maturity!
So, there you have our family’s take on encouraging our children to reason on more mature levels through adult conversation. So far, we’ve seen great results and hope to only continue this trend toward raising adults, rather than oversized kids.
To read another article I wrote on this topic, visit At The Well and read my post entitled: Raising Adults.