I recently had a strong reminder about how important conversation is in each of our relationships—how essential it is to find a way to engage in quality conversations—the kind that often get pushed to the sideline by all the distractions of doing life.
Cindy and I were in Brazil for work. One evening we found ourselves alone in the hotel bar for dinner. We were done with work, had no place to be, and had nothing to do but talk. We were without television, internet, or phones—completely unplugged. We had french fries and caipirinhas for dinner (a sugar cane rum drink, and they say that after three you can speak Portuguese!).
We had a wonderful evening just talking to each other—five hours’ worth. It took us back 13 years to when we began dating. The evening was a powerful expression of what conversation can be.
We also became mindful of how many distractions we have at home: laundry, yard work, internet, favorite tv shows, e-mail—you know the list as well as I. And we became mindful of how renewing and strengthening conversation can be to our relationship. We set the intention to get away for the joy of simple conversation more often.
Your children need the same experience—time away from all the distractions of the home. Time with just you and conversation.
On Saturdays, a colleague of mine takes one of his three children out for breakfast. The kids call it “Breakfast with Dad,” and they keep track of whose turn it is to go. I also like the format they’ve adopted—both father and child get to start the conversations:
- Dad, this is what I want you to tell me about.
- Dad, this is what I want to tell you about and have you listen to me.
- Sarah, this is what I want to hear you talk about.
- Sarah, this is what I want to talk about and have you listen to me.
This design ensures that the conversation goes someplace interesting almost every time—and sometimes, Jim says, the result is magical.
Paul Axtell is author of Ten Powerful Things to Say to Your Kids: Creating the relationship you want with the most important people in your life. He and his wife, Cindy, live in Minneapolis and love sharing time and conversations with their 13 grandchildren.