Most days I prefer discussion with children over discussion with adults. I know that might sound odd, but it’s true.
I appreciate the type of dialog I have with my children, and other children, for various reasons. I also thought this would be a fun blog post to write!
So here are some things we can learn from talking with children –
Children say exactly what’s on their mind, especially young children like mine (3 and 5). In fact, I’m starting to notice that my son, Everest, is just now starting to develop a filter at 5 years old. Sepia, on the other hand, has no filter. She says exactly what her brain is processing. It’s beautiful.
Unfiltered conversations are clean and straight to the point. You don’t have to worry about all the sidestepping or delayed agenda that comes with most filtered conversations.
For example, when adults speak we can often spend 10 minutes in discussion before we actually get to what we want to talk about. Or, we start playing a game of asking things indirectly or passively to avoid asking what we really want to discuss. This is a form of filtering.
Filtering has it’s use case, but it can be exhausting. We can get what we want a lot faster out of a conversation if we remove filtering. That’s why our conversations with children are often much shorter and to the point.
We learn a lot faster when we remove the filter.
No Bias or Judgement
Children have very few biases or established judgements. Their minds are like new databases with open storage and very little clutter. They’re still shaping their perception of the world – what they know, think and believe. This makes for very pure questions and conversation.
On the contrary, adults have so many biases and established judgements. We have decades of experience and education that have helped us build a massive database in our minds. With this comes very strong belief systems.
Let’s take the most commonly discussed topics amongst adults as examples – politics and religion.
It’s almost impossible to engage in discussion around these topics without emotions flaring and strong opinions coming out. Adults get so excited and passionate about these things. They spark aggressive and volatile conversation that usually feels like a debate. One person is trying to convince the other of their opinion. And from what? From that person’s previous experience and belief systems? They’ve never been a politician but they know how to fix the economy. They’ve only practiced one religion for 30 years, amongst hundreds, and that’s the one they suggest we follow?
That’s why I don’t talk about politics or religion with adults. I’m not interested in playing a reckless game of mental checkers with you. I won’t learn much there. The conversation is too personalized from your previous belief systems.
However, I would entertain the discussion with children. I think that might provide for fascinating conversation because they would ask unbiased questions with no previous judgement. I might learn something from that conversation.
Have you ever talked with an adult and everything in the conversation points back to them? You can just see it happening, too. They’re waiting for the next question so they can process exactly how it affects them, or what they’ve experienced from the topic. No questions, just quick and personal responses to everything.
Children don’t do that. They don’t know how to play the victim yet. They ask questions instead of dumping personal baggage all over the place.
Now to be fair, there is a time and place to have victimized discussion. We all need someone to just listen to us every now and then. But I would prefer to have those discussions sparingly.
We learn more when we take focus off ourselves.
Children are genuinely curious about everything. They want to know what it does, how it works, where it came from, and of course, WHY. Again, they’re building up their mental database with all this curiosity.
Most adults lose this curiosity as soon as we join the workforce. I wrote another post about that here.
As parents, it’s easy to let this curiosity exhaust you. We’ve all been there. The non stop why this, why that, what about this… it adds up. However, I would challenge you to enjoy this time and use it to relearn or unlearn things.
For example, I use my children’s questions to pause and reevaluate my answers. Am I giving them the same answers my parents or peers gave me? Or am I giving them an answer that’s a real-time reflection of what I know today?
And more often than not I am offering a simple, “I don’t know” instead of coming up with a bullshit answer. This is important because “I don’t know” leaves children curious to keep asking the questions. Once we implant an answer they store it and check that curiosity off.
We learn a lot when we fuel our children’s curiosity.
Let’s talk about the weather!
Ever notice how children never talk about the weather? Do you know why? Because talking about the weather is a global icebreaker. It’s generally what we [adults] talk about when we don’t know what to talk about.
Children have no time for such talk. That would be a waste of their speech and energy. Unless of course, they truly had a question about their understanding of the weather.
I even test this on occasion with my own kids. I’ll look outside and say something like, “The sun is coming up and it’s going to be a beautiful day!” My kids are generally like, “Yeah dad, so what. Wanna play legos?” 🙂
The lesson we can learn here is preserving our speech for things that matter. It’s fine to talk about the weather on occasion, but it doesn’t need to come up every damn day.
Adult conversations aren’t that bad…
I want to make sure you don’t leave this post thinking adult conversation isn’t valuable, because it certainly is. I enjoy a lot of the conversation I have with adults in my life. I’m also sure I’ve been guilty of the critiques above!
However, I want us to realize that we [as adults] create a lot of useless conversation, myself included. We tend to let emotions and news overwhelm our discussions… which typically don’t provide for learning experiences. They just drag us into deeper pools of stress and reactivity. Like I said before, there is a time and place for such conversations in moderation.
The key point here is that children offer us a reminder to learn again. Their words, questions and overall dialog reinforce some healthy habits around discussion.
So be a good listener to them!
Ali is a father, husband and serial entrepreneur with a deep drive to create. He writes, records, codes and builds things to inspire the artist in all of us.