• User AvatarMiriam McKenzie
  • 10 Jan, 2021
  • 3 Mins Read

A new year, back to work but it’s still school holidays!

Do you watch The Block, Australia? Sometimes I do but it’s not something I really, really, really must see (like Brigerton, ahem). But during the last week one team lost because they didn’t have a dining table in their dining room. The reasons why they left it out were astounding.  Not on a designer, interior design or anything like that level but when they said

“We knew that out of us and all of our friends, hardly any of the people that we knew actually sat down and used a dining table. A lot of them, they ate at different times to their kids.”

They went on to say …

“Dining tables become a space where you put your laundry,” said Tam.

“I don’t know about you, but I pile all the stuff on the dining table, then I fold it up and put it away. We wanted to use that space for something different that would be utilised a bit more.”

What? I haven’t actually stopped thinking about this because these reasons are wrong on so many levels. “What levels, Miriam ??” I hear you calling through hands made into the shape of a loud hailer. Well. Let me count the ways.

  1. Children’s brains grow when engaged in conversation with an adult. 5 conversations turns are best, not instructions or close ended questions. (more on that later).
  2. Children’s vocabulary increases, their understanding of correct grammar and syntax also increases, even if yours is incorrect. (I saw, not I seen. Th is enunciated Th not v or f, just to begin).
  3. Your teenagers are more likely to tell you what is on their mind when you are sitting around the dining table having dinner and talking. As well as what their ‘friends’ are getting up to.  (Note, no technology allowed during dinner time, more on that later too). This can be frightening, which is all the more reason to do it.
  4. You learn so much about your child that you will never find out if you haven’t spoken with them and in our busy lives, dinner time around the table is the best place to do this if you are busy throughout the day.
  5. As they tell you what they have seen or heard you can tell them whether something is correct or not. Some information a mean friend may have told them, you can correct this opinion with what is actually correct.
  6. General knowledge increases as you can discuss what is happening around the world.

I don’t know where Australian children’s literacy levels are at but NZs are lower than they have been in over 20 years. This is on us, parents! Us! Just talk to your kids, it’s actually that simple. Easy? No.

It is vital not only for our kids to learn and grow but to develop a high level of self worth, to help keep their anxiety levels at ‘normal’ Don’t worry about flash cards and apps and You Tube to teach your kids, absolutely nothing beats you talking to them.

Of course, I’m meaning positive conversation, conversation around them and how they are doing. Remember ‘Remove criticism and blame from your dialogue and you will build you integrity’ Integrity as a person and a parent. Take this into your team at work as well.

Dr Leah Woodward’s book “The Strength Switch” is a fabulous book to help you build up your child’s sense of self worth by focussing on their innate strengths as opposed to criticising what they can’t do or what they’ve done wrong. Another resource you can take into your work place.

Back to why conversational turns is important, it has been found that children who only hear instructions and not engage in conversational turns before they are 5, will not have the vocab to hold a conversation by the time they are 14.

The reason why you should eat dinner without technology? 700 words a minute are lost if any sort of tech distracts you. Turn off the television, put your phone away, turn off all devices and focus on your kids.

As a mum of two teenage boys, this has been vital in finding out who my kids are, what frightens them and what or who they turn to if they want to find something out. Some conversations have been extremely worrying and sometimes my boys haven’t made the right choices about some things but we are continually talking and re-directing to positive pathways.

The saying about taking a village is so so true, make sure you reach out to family, friends and professionals if you have any concerns about your children. In the meantime, set that table for dinner, sit down and TALK.