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How to have more child-driven conversations

How to create a better connection with your child using "child-driven conversations."

A while back, we took our kids to the zoo for the first time.

I was so excited to see their faces when they saw the animals.

Especially the elephants. Because I love elephants. I love their big flappy ears, and the way they use their trunks to pick up things.

So when we finally came to the elephant enclosure, I was excited to share my love for elephants with my kids.

"Look, it's feeding time!" I shouted excitedly as I saw the zoo keepers filling up the food dispensers.

"That's cool," my son said half-heartedly, before turning around and walking to the flamingo enclosure.

"Wait, don't you want to see the elephants eat!" I shouted.

"Let's go to the monkeys," my daughter said, showing no interest as the mom elephant gracefully helped her baby to reach the food with her trunk.

I could not understand them. How could kids not be interested in watching elephants eat?

Understanding what motivates kids is difficult. It takes constant effort, and it changes all the time. But the better you are at understanding them, the easier it becomes to get them to cooperate with you.

When we interviewed Rebecca Rolland, author of The Art of Talking with Children, for our book How To Get Kids To Listen she shared a useful technique called Curious Waiting that you can use to constantly find out about what your kids are interested in.

To practice Curious Waiting, you simply sit quietly with your child, observing what they are doing. Pay close attention and try to notice what it is that interests them about their activity. Then, after a couple of minutes, ask them simple questions, like "What's that about?" or "Tell me more".

Then, just allow them to drive the conversation, and talk about what they are interested in.

I’ve found that that’s powerful just in allowing the child to start driving the conversation. Because we don’t often focus on having a child really lead us in conversation. And just taking one of those moment-by-moment opportunities to start taking a child’s lead and to show them that we really are engaged in what they’re engaged in and interested in what they’re interested in.

Rebecca Rolland

By using this technique, not only do you learn more about your child, but it also gives them the confidence that you are interested in them, and helps them fill their need for control.