A young father sent this piece to me about his three-and-a-half-year-old son: 

“I am making a conscious effort to talk to my son, Cooper, on his level. It doesn’t happen every night, but it’s amazing what I find out when I do. We had a twenty-minute conversation as he was in the bathtub one night. He told me all about his day, beginning to end, good and bad. The part that struck me most was when he told me about an altercation with another boy. ‘This boy did this to me and made me sad, and then I did that to him. Then, I got in trouble, but I thought the other kid should have too.’ We had a conversation, with me asking a lot of clarifying questions to keep it going. Then we talked through what he thought he did wrong, and at the end he said, ‘I am really going to try not to do that again, Daddy, because it wasn’t very nice.’ I guess I didn’t realize the struggles he has day in and day out, even at the age of three. It was eye-opening.”

I love this piece because it redefines for me what kids are able to articulate and share at an early age. Researchers have suggested we should read things to our kids that are beyond what we think they might be able to handle. They’ve also explained that conversing with young children is critical to development—maybe even more important than their learning the alphabet. Even so, I was surprised by this remarkable conversation, which means I still need to expand my thinking about young children’s capabilities.

I also like the father’s awareness of questioning in a way to keep the conversation going rather than overtly directing where it might go. Just think what that new understanding helps create in his relationship with Cooper!

“When your intention is to give your whole attention to your infant, your toddler, your preschooler, and so on, all the way through to adulthood, you create space within which your relationship can grow.” —from page 73 of Ten Powerful Things to Say to Your Kids