Denise Day Spencer

May 6, 2007

It’s not just yakkity-yak

Filed under: Home Front — denisedayspencer @ 3:41 pm

Michael asked me to write a bit more about parenting–specifically what we may have done right…or at least what we might have not done too wrong. First, I must agree with him that we feel tremendously blessed to be able to look at the young adults our children have become and to think that we have had at least a small part in their growing up. For the biggest influence upon them both has been God. We know that; I hope they do, too.

If I have to choose something to say, however, I’ve decided to talk more about…well…talking. You’ve probably heard about the importance of communication until you feel as if you can’t hear it any more. Yet it really is that foundational.

Michael said that our family has always been a very talkative one, and he’s not exaggerating. Both Noel and Clay began talking early and a lot–especially Noel. Clay was a typical second-born babe, more content for a while to grunt and point while listening to big sister’s running monologues. But it wasn’t long before he, too, was joining in the conversational fun.

I attribute that, at least in part, to the fact that we always talked a lot to them, even when they were tiny babies. I carried on conversations with them when all they could do was grin and coo. I read them stories. I sang silly, made-up songs. As I toted them with me through the house, I narrated inanely boring details like what ingredients we needed to make a cake. I suppose from this they learned that talking was fun, and that it was what we did at our house.

Our mindless infant chatter was setting the stage for things much more important: accessibility, openness and honesty. What do I mean by that? I’ll give three examples. I’m sure you can come up with more.

I learned this first trick as a child myself. Because my parents both worked full-time, my grandmother was my babysitter. I tagged along after her as she cleaned house, did laundry and cooked–and she talked to me as I would later share with my own children. She told many still-beloved stories of the days when her three boys were young. And somewhere in there I learned that I could ask her questions without judgment or embarrassment. I’ll always remember the first time I ran across the word “circumcision” in the Bible. It was my grandmother whom I chose to ask about it and without further ado she very matter-of-factly told me what it was.

My mother somehow conveyed the same approachability. It was she who answered my huge “Is Santa real?” question (No, I’m not going to tell you!), and she who valiantly tried to give me my first sex education lecture. (I mostly remember being pretty confused, but at least she tried!)

In all of our talking through the years, our children seemed to feel, at least for the most part, that they could ask questions of Michael and me. And we did our best to answer honestly and calmly–without a panicked shriek of, “Heaven help us! Why do you want to know THAT?!”

We’ve also tried to ask questions instead of lecturing our kids. Of course sometimes there’s no substitute for a good, old-fashioned “talking to,” but whenever possible we kept it a dialogue instead of a monologue. This gave us a chance to see what Noel and Clay were actually thinking about something, not just telling them what they ought to think.

As Michael has already mentioned, our talking also included using real life, everyday experiences to springboard into discussions. TV shows, movies, books, events in friends’ lives, all of these things were resources for conversations–and sometime even lively debates–about values.

Talking. It’s such an easy thing to do, but far too many families today have forgotten how. Start early. Make it fun. Soon you’ll be teaching and your kids won’t even realize it. Better yet, you’ll find out what’s on their minds. Believe me, it’s well worth the effort.



  1. […] UPDATE: My wife, Denise, has added a post on how talking played a major role in turning out great kid. […]

    Pingback by » Blog Archive » Dinner With The Kids: Thoughts on Successful Parenting — May 6, 2007 @ 3:53 pm | Reply

  2. Thanks for sharing, Denise! 🙂 I don’t have kids yet, and so I hadn’t really thought through how important talking is… but I really appreciate the insight!

    Comment by Beth — May 7, 2007 @ 12:26 am | Reply

  3. I appreciate this reminder! My kids are all really young, but I have a little “sister” who is 16 years old and used to be my helper a couple of summers ago before her family moved away. She’s very sweet but is flirting with all sorts of things that make me concerned for her (being on the computer all the time conversing with males on myspace, etc.) She called me yesterday and says how she likes that she can talk to me about all of this stuff and that I don’t judge her. I try to express some concerns at times in a gentle way, but don’t know what to do. I guess I’ve thought I should just mainly keep listening to her, but am confused on knowing how and what to say. I’ve thought that saying too much too forcefully would probably turn her away, but I don’t want to wimp out either. Any ideas?

    Comment by LAS — May 13, 2007 @ 5:25 am | Reply

  4. I’d say you are playing an important role in her life, so you’re right; it is important to keep those lines of communication open. But if you have a good relationship (and it sounds like you do) she should be able to handle it if you sometimes express concern for her. Be careful to not sound like you’re judging her or condemning her, but let her know you’re worried because you care. And instead of lecturing or jumping to conclusions from what she says, try to ask plenty of questions to find out what’s really going on and what her values are. Good luck! I pray that God may continue to really use you in this young lady’s life.

    Comment by Denise — May 14, 2007 @ 7:48 pm | Reply

  5. […] June 12th, 2007 at 6:54 pm (Uncategorized) A short while back, Michael and I each wrote an essay on one aspect of parenting. While we’ve been far from perfect parents (just ask our kids!) we wanted to share a couple of things we think we did right. […]

    Pingback by Intentional parenting–it’s no accident « Denise Day Spencer — June 12, 2007 @ 6:55 pm | Reply

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