When do you give your children the time to speak, the time to formulate a thought or give an answer with the time to get it wrong and start again? No clocks, no homework, no digital distractions, no rushing.
When, as a matter of fact, do you spend 2 hours talking to your children? I mean, no distractions, just you chit-chatting about this and that, without telling them what to do.
Now, this is not some holier-than-thou preachy (well it’s a bit preachy) instruction manual detailing how I do it and how you should all do it. All I am saying is that it makes sense to allow your children to voice an opinion and the time to talk about stuff, whatever that is. I am sure everyone agrees that engineering time to communicate with your children enables them to learn to formulate thoughts, open up and talk in more detail than is often the case in the stolen minutes between the school run, ballet lessons, homework, dinner and bed.
And where is one of the best places to communicate with such freedom? Yes, you guessed it: outdoors.
At the weekend Emma and I headed down to the Chilterns with the promise of a long walk and Sunday lunch in a pub (okay, realistically the attractive bit was the lunch).
We walked a beautifully sunlit 5.5km circuit over Deacon Hill, and around Pegsdon Hills. Red kites circled in the cold air, the sky that beautiful light winter blue. We were pleasantly surprised to find a good covering of snow in parts. Emma, thanks by and large to her new found confidence courtesy of our ski trip in January, was fantasizing about sliding down the snowy gulleys of Pegsdon Hills.
We walked for just over 2 hours and although the last 30 minutes of these hikes ends up being a lot of cajoling my daughter to the finish line with stories of giant roast beef’s in the warm belly of a pub, it is really valuable and enjoyable time to spend together talking. A lot of nonsense is talked when the two of us get together as her mother will attest, but these “adventures”, apart from being utterly good for the body are great for the mind. We explore ideas in more detail than we would at home where distractions abound. We talk about what we see and Emma’s imagination tends to run a little wilder than normal, something which I notice does not always happen in her home life where answers are at hand and time often is not.
And it is not just about giving your children the time and opportunity to speak, but also offering your undivided attention which tells your children you are listening to them. We grown ups, after all, are as susceptible to distractions as our little ones.