As a parent you want to bring up your children to the best that they can. They need the maths, english and computer skills, to enjoy sport, play an instrument, have lots of friends and so on. There are a long list of clubs and activities we sign them up for, and now we have the Ipad and mobile phones to contend with… new words such as emoji now in our everyday language, we now have protocols for playdates/family visits for the iPad!

It is very easy to get carried away in this very commercial world, trying to add as much into our lives as possible, somehow we are all more successful if we are busy. Then there is a power cut, rainy day or our plans for the day are cancelled, disaster what are we going to do all day? Then while I’m searching on my smartphone googling where to go when it rains I realise my daughter has tipped out the lego box and has started making a car with a swimming pool on the back and a house on wheels with a bunch of flowers on top… all the little lego people suddenly lined up to watch this perfect example of imagination and contentment.

Too often you feel the need to entertain and direct children with what they ‘should’ be doing but when given the chance they have a whole world of imagination and creativity inside them that comes to life. I love to see children given time off developing their own minds and exercising their ability to think, a life skill that will carry with them through every area of their life. Its healthy for children to have boundaries and good role models, to learn right from wrong, know that every action has a consequence, sit still and pay attention in class, get a good education. However Growing minds need the opportunity to be exercised, social and emotional skills developed, to learn to think for themselves and explore ideas.

Yes learn the skills you need but also write your own, develop new ones, create your own life, lead don’t follow. Turn of the TV and how about ask questions they need to think about to get to know each other, to make us all think? To reawaken our sense of curiosity? So often gadgets, media and life distracts us from developing good conversation with our children, good communication is an essential part of life.

Smart parents give their children a million answers. Wise parents ask their children a million questions. And so smart parents might know, but wise parents understand.

I strife to be the perfect mother and inspire my daughter to be the best she can be but life can have a habit of taking over and this theory doesn’t always go strictly to plan, so when it was way past bedtime last night and I’m asked ‘Why’ for the tenth time and I say: Because mummy said so that’s why… Looks like I still need some practise. I hear another comment in my head from my own mother: Do as I say not as I do…

So for these days I love this idea I saw on mumsnet today to get things back on track :

Conversation Jar

There we are, looking at each other over a table with nothing between us but open space and time and love . . .  and I cannot think of a single interesting thing to ask them. I got nothing. I’m a mother, so I’m tired. It’s just impossible to be creative when you’re tired. And so here’s what I end up saying: “So – how was your day?” Every parent knows that this rusty “how was your day” key doesn’t work but we keep trying it because it’s the only one we can find. 

key-jar-670 key-jar-slips-670

A few months ago – Tish’s teacher sent home a “Conversation Jar” filled with interesting questions that the students in Tish’s class created.  I put this jar on the kitchen table and a few times a week, we take turns pulling out a question during dinner. THIS JAR HAS MAGICAL POWERS. It’s been months now and still, every time we open it – everyone at the table wakes up a little bit. Little eyes flicker back to life, folks sit up straight in their seats, the arguing stops, and it’s all “me firsts! Can I answer first, mom??”

And so I reach in and pull out a key: “If you were an inventor – what would you invent, and why?” And then it’s quiet for a moment. Everyone makes her thinking face. They are searching themselves. They are looking inside to see what they’ll find and as soon as they find it: there it is – their hands fly up and they say: “I know I know!!” And then they pull something out of themselves that they didn’t even know was there. Look! Look what I found inside of me! And the family laughs or nods and either way we are saying: wow, that is so cool. I didn’t even know that about you! I didn’t even know that room inside of you existed. There are a billion little rooms inside each of your children that remain locked up, unexplored, and a good question can lead you right inside.

I love this jar because it livens up our evenings and helps me know my babies better – but it doesn’t end there. HERE IS AN IMPORTANT PART: Kids who learn to be self aware tend to become others aware and world aware. We want our children to understand themselves, the people in their lives, and the world they live in. This kind of awareness is what makes a good citizen. So we’ve written questions that unlock awareness on all three levels. You will notice that some of these questions ask a child to look within (What was your first thought when you woke up today?), others ask her to consider her peers (Who in your class seems lonely?) and others ask her to look at the world (What do you think is the biggest challenge facing our world today?). Kids must become explorers of themselves first, and then their eyes open to other people in their lives. It’s a process, teaching curiosity, awareness and compassion. This jar is a start.

I love it when someone asks me a thoughtful question for three reasons. First, it shows that the other person cares enough to try to get to know me. Second, it shows curiosity – which is one of my favorite traits. Third, a thoughtful question offers me the opportunity to unlock rooms inside myself I’ve never explored before.

Getting to know ourselves and others is the greatest adventure. We are explorers of ourselves and the people we love. Love is the ongoing process of unlocking each other and keeping safe whatever we find. Thoughtful questions are the keys we use to do the unlocking and safekeeping.

Glennon Doyle Melton author of ‘Carry on Warrior’