Throughout my childhood, my parents created opportunities for my siblings and me to participate in quality, deep discussions. The topics were diverse and ranged from education, politics, religion, sports, and more. Each Sunday, we convened around the dinner table. My Dad or Mom would come prepared to share a thought, book or article with us. We spent hours talking! The objective was not to draw a conclusion, but rather to take a position and discuss it.
Jump ahead 30 years. We now create similar opportunities for our children.
My parents were ‘right on’ about creating opportunities for us to participate in quality discussions. We now know that a child’s language develop is influenced more by deep conversations with parents than by simply exposing them to words.
The most recent research shows that parents are now encouraged to have regular conversations with their children, during dinner, while playing a game, or during a walk, rather than simply practicing vocabulary with them, because their vocabulary tends to be deeper and larger. “We don’t want to just distill it down to a numbers game, because … the important message to take away is not the poor versus wealthy families, but the opportunities children have to interact with rich language,” said Dale Walker, an associate research professor in early language and communication and the director of the Juniper Gardens Children’s Project in Kansas City, Kan.
We encourage all parents to create opportunities for quality conversations with their children. Choose any topic. Allow each person to share his or her thoughts. Be sure to explain that there is no right or wrong thoughts. Slowly increase the time and topics you discuss. Participating in discussions becomes easier with regular practice.
Finally, creating opportunities for diverse, rich discussions and conversations equips children with the knowledge and skills necessary to more successfully navigate the global economy.