Interviews

As well as being aware of how we speak to children, it’s even more important for us to really listen to what they have to say to us.

So as part of the How to Speak Child project, I have been using a simple set of questions to ask children how they feel about their communications with adults and with other kids.

Sometimes I’ve interviewed the children IRL or via Skype, but more often parents have taken my questions and held their own interview sessions at home, extrapolating as they see fit. 

I also produced a set of questions for parents, and one for professionals. Occasionally these stand alone here, but mostly the responses from parent(s) and child(ren) from the same household are reproduced together.

There are some real insights here, so I hope you enjoy reading them, and do please get in touch if you would like to conduct your own interviews at home or in school.


Interviews with L and her daughter P who is 5.

admin

05-03-2018

This week's set of interview responses are from L and P who live in France. P is being brought up bi-lingually, but is perhaps more comfortable in French. So it's even more wonderful that she gives these beautifully honest answers in English. My sincere thanks go to both of them for their time and effort.

THE FIRST RESPONSES ARE FROM L, WHO HAD LIMITED TIME AT THE COMPUTER TO WRITE HER ANSWERS:

• What has been the most valuable lesson you have learned so far with regards to communicating with your children?

Realising how early they understand and how much more I could listen/be attentive/give time.

• When has it all gone horribly wrong for you, and what did you do to fix it?
When I tried to 'do' anything with them without explaining first, not taking time for them to feel active in the family's events. And not listening to them. To fix it, I started again, explained, gave more choice/time, apologised a while after if an upset happened and I lost my temper. Try to watch the tone and volume I use and finding a way to say 'NO' as little as possible within a reasonable framework.

• What is the personal trait you mostly rely upon in your relationships with your children?
Attention to detail, understanding, remembering, keeping promises, self-care.

• What is your greatest fear for future communications with your children?
That all the communication mishaps will cumulate in them 'giving up' on me as an option to talk to resulting in THEM not listening and keeping secrets.
• Do you have strategy for this? If not, what would help? I talk to them about anything they ask about and don't pretend anything. I say a lot about my own feelings and show my imperfections. I admit when I make a mistake. I always tell them the truth relevant to their age (unless it would cause them too much distress).

• When has it all gone wonderfully right, and why do you think that was?
When I listen. When their basic needs are taken care of. (Sleep, food, basic comfort).

• What question do you think should be on this list?

What do you think your children would say about how you talk to them? How do your children speak to you (if older) and what does it reflect for you?

AND NOW WE HEAR FROM P, AS INTERVIEWED BY L:

• What annoys you about how adults speak to you?

When I’m punished.

-Who does that?

Mummy sometimes.

-Do I? (surprised)

P laughs

When they shout. When they punish me.

-Who punishes you?

Papa.

-What does he do?

He puts me on my own in my bedroom.

• How do you like a grown-up to be when they speak to you?

Nice. To be nice and not shout.

• What is good and what is bad about being a child?

Good- Don’t know.

Bad - No.

(Prompted) I like to play…to dance.

-What kind?

Classic.

I like to go to school.

I don’t like when my little sister bites me.

• Do you find it easy or difficult to talk with grown-ups, and why?

Yes…difficult.

-Why?

Because…..because….sometimes I’m shy.

-Is it easy to talk to Mummy, Papa, Teacher?

Yes.

-Are there any grown-ups you find it difficult to talk to?

Yes - Mata.

• Is it easy or difficult for you to speak with other children?

No…it’s easy.

-Why?

They’re not like adults. Adults are a bit difficult.

• Do you think adults understand you? Why / why not?

Sometimes.

-Why?

I don’t know. It’s not all... Mummy does, Papa does, Pearl, Elsie…They understand me because they’re my family.

• What lesson would you like grown-ups to learn about how to talk to children?

To talk nice.

-What would you teach them?

That when they’re cross to only talk to children, nicely.

Interviews with adults M and P, and young boys E and L.

admin

03-02-2018

The last in this series of interviews is with Mum M, her son E who is 10 with his friend L who's 9 and P's son, and finally M's boyfriend P, who is not E's father. The family are German and live in Germany. Once again I am hugely grateful for their input and honesty.


THE FIRST ANSWERS ARE FROM M:

• What has been the most valuable lesson you have learned so far with regards to communicating with your children?

Children also hear all the things you don’t say. They are so sensible. So it’s not only important, what you say to a child, it’s also important how.

 

• When has it all gone horribly wrong for you, and what did you do to fix it?

After his father and I broke up, it was hard for our son and every time I said something to him, about him not doing what he should or something he forgot, he just cried. He was so highly sensitive. His father always told him, he was not good enough and every time I said something negative, my son thought I thought the same way about him.

I told him, that my love is unconditional. And that its okay to cry. But just because I was saying something negative, my love does not change. A year later he can live with constructive criticism.


 

• What is the personal trait you mostly rely upon in your relationships with your children?

My son knows 100% that I got his back. And that his feelings always have a right to be.
 

• What is your greatest fear for future communications with your children?

That he will not talk to me, when he is in trouble. That he just doesn’t know how to address his feelings and instead of talking about that struggle, he will be silent.

 

• Do you have strategy for this? If not, what would help?

I am constantly telling him, that I will NEVER turn my back on him. And even if he don't know why he is feeling the way he is feeling, he can talk to me and I will be there, never judging.

 

• When has it all gone wonderfully right, and why do you think that was?

After his father and I broke up and he and his parents talked behind my back. My son told me about it and said, that HE KNOWS I love him and that its important, not to believe what they are saying, he is FEELING the truth. He knows I love him. I am telling and showing him every day.


NOW WE HEAR FROM E AND L:
• What really winds you up about how adults speak to you?

Sometimes its hard, just to accept, that we don't have a say, when an argument is over. Adults just say no or yes and we have no say in it.
 

• What do you really like when being addressed by an adult?

If they are nice and listen to us.

 

• Is there anything you would change about how young people are treated in society, if so what?

Sometimes we feel not taken seriously. It would be great, if we had more say in the things the adults decide.
 

• Do you find it easy or difficult to communicate with grown-ups, and why?

Most of the time its easy. Sometimes its hard, because they just think they know everything better.

 

• What about other children - of the same age, and other ages?

That’s easy, if we like them.

 

• Do you think adults understand you? Why / why not?

Most of the time they understand us. But sometimes they think they know everything better then we do.

 

• What lesson would you like grown-ups to learn about how to communicate with children?

Be kind and friendly. And know that we have an opinion, as well.

http://howtospeakchild.com/pulsepro/data/img/uploads/Mouths_U.jpg

FINALLY P GIVES HIS RESPONSES:
• What has been the most valuable lesson you have learned so far with regards to communicating with your children?

You have to be really careful with the soul of kids, cause things that we already considered being settled and done, leave deep marks inside the child.

 

• When has it all gone horribly wrong for you, and what did you do to fix it?

I was really loud towards him, cause he did something bad.

My son told me afterwards he was scared of me.
I assured him, I would NEVER hurt him and I will ALWAYS love him. No matter what.


 

• What is the personal trait you mostly rely upon in your relationships with your children?

Giving love and security. Being loyal.

 

• What is your greatest fear for future communications with your children?

That he's not trusting me and therefore is keeping things to himself. That he is not aware of the fact, that I will always be there.

Do you have a strategy for this? If not, what would help?

Always repeat and underline, that he can trust in me 100%.


 

• When has it all gone wonderfully right, and why do you think that was?

He struggled, after the divorce of his mother and I. We sat with him and told him, we BOTH will be there for him. He felt secured and loved and got better.

 


Interviews with Dad S and son T aged 7

admin

27-01-2018

This week's interviews are the first I've published that are exclusively father and son. They are very succinct, honest and straight to the point. As ever I'm deeply grateful to them both for taking the time to participate.


FIRST WE HEAR FROM S...

• What has been the most valuable lesson you have learned so far with regards to communicating with your children?

The importance of listening and just being there for someone. More important than what you have to say to them.

 

• When has it all gone horribly wrong for you, and what did you do to fix it?

The tough thing is keeping a hold on the aspects of your own personality that you feel are important in making you an inspiring character for your children to respect and love. Balancing this with wanting to be there for them 100%. Not losing these qualities as you become in many ways subservient to your family. It is an ongoing struggle. I haven’t fixed it really.

 

• What is the personal trait you mostly rely upon in your relationships with your children?

Humour.

 

• What is your greatest fear for future communications with your children?

That they will stop sharing their thoughts and feelings with me.


 

• Do you have strategy for this? If not, what would help?

Other than trying to be there for them amongst all the distractions of daily life, no I’m afraid not. More money would help. So I didn’t have to work so much.
 

• When has it all gone wonderfully right, and why do you think that was?

When we dance and sing. I can do these things with them easily as I haven’t really grown up properly myself.

 

• What question do you think should be on this list?

Maybe something about how to help them understand the modern world honestly without scaring the shit out of them.

http://howtospeakchild.com/pulsepro/data/img/uploads/561446840Mouths_O.jpg

... AND NOW T'S ANSWERS...

• What annoys you about how adults speak to you?

When there’s a baby sister or someone that annoys you a lot and if she cries and points at you the adult might tell you off.

 

• How do you like a grown-up to be when they speak to you?

Kindly.

 

• What is good and what is bad about being a child?

Good: Having lots of good friends. Not doing all the work.
Bad: Not choosing your food. Being told what to do.


 

• Do you find it easy or difficult to talk with grown-ups, and why?

Usually easy. Sometimes difficult like when you’re getting told off and you don’t actually wanna say that you did it.


 

• Is it easy or difficult for you to speak with other children?

Easy.
 

• Do you think adults understand you? Why / why not?

Yes. They usually know what you’re talking about.

 

• What lesson would you like grown-ups to learn about how to talk to children?

Nicely.

 

• What question do you think should be on this list? How would you answer it?

I’ll tell you when I've thought of something.

 

Interviews with A, her son L and his cousin O both 10

admin

13-01-2018

A spoke with her son L and his cousin O, both of whom are 10. It's a natural flowing conversation and both boys pitch in. A develops the questions to get more out of the children and they are very responsive, it's a joy to read. A also has two other sons, N is 3 and E is 3 months.

As ever I'm more than grateful for their contribution.

FIRST WE HEAR FROM A:

What has been the most valuable lesson you have learned so far with regards to communicating with your children?

I would say … being calm and present when I’m communicating with the kids. I find I can get really distracted, not listen to them properly…um…they end up getting really frustrated because they know that I’m not listening and they’re not getting the answers that they want, and if I can just take a step back and keep present and calm when I’m speaking to them - whatever the subject, I actually get a lot more out of them…um…so yeah, that’s definitely the key to communicating with my kids.

When has it all gone horribly wrong for you, and what did you do to fix it?

It tends to go horribly wrong when I lose it, to be fair. If I can remain really calm with the kids whatever they’re going through, whether they’re having a paddy, they’re upset, you know - whether it’s something internal, external, or they’re being naughty - again if I lose the plot, if I get cross or angry..um..it does tend to go more horribly wrong then. So definitely coming back to that place of sort of being in the moment and being nice and calm and not being distracted by anything else around me. Again, fixing it when it is all going horribly wrong is just bringing myself out of it and just starting again really.

What is the personal trait you mostly rely upon in your relationships with your children?

I do rely on a lot of humour with my kids to be fair…um… if I can communicate, for example, asking them to do things - I don’t know whether it’s getting dressed or just picking up after themselves… If I can kind of make it into a game and have a bit of a laugh with them, I am 99.9% sure that they’re going to get that thing done. So it’s kinda coming down to their level, with a good bit of humour and making things a bit of a game - will generally really work and I think that’s…that is one of my good traits actually because I’m good at being a child and being a bit immature!!

What is your greatest fear for future communications with your children?

I think my greatest fear of communicating with my children is that as they get older - you know, approaching those hormonal teenage years, and reasoning with them becomes more difficult, or if they get more distant….I think, you know, just losing that part of being able to communicate that way that I do now with them….yeah, it does make me feel a bit fearful. And I know that as a parent, you don’t want to be a friend with your child, you do want to be a parent, but also I don’t want to be putting up a wall between us communication-wise as they get older, so that is something that does frighten me for the future years.

Do you have strategy for this? If not, what would help?

I don’t have a strategy for that, and I don’t know what would help with that, and I think it’s one of those things that you’re just gonna have to see what happens as it goes along.. but obviously if you can give me a few tips…as we approach that time of our lives with L then that’d be great!

When has it all gone wonderfully right, and why do you think that was?

Yeah, it kind of all goes wonderfully right when we use the humour and we stay in the moment - and that’s happening on a daily basis thankfully, we only kind of lose it momentarily. I think because the kids are so young, I think communication is a lot easier. So, I’m hoping we can keep that going…we’ll just have to see how it goes as the hormones start kicking in with the ten year old.

What question do you think should be on this list?

That’s a difficult one as well…I’ll have to ponder on that one and let you know when I see you next.

NOW A INTERVIEWS L AND O TOGETHER, :

What annoys you about how adults speak to you?

Um….When they shout at you like really loud and the way they’re acting when they, like, shout at you…like what they say if they’re angry or something like shout at you when they’re angry.

-Can you describe the way they might act when they shout at you?

The way they like the wag their their finger as a dog wagging their tail or something.

How do you like a grown-up to be when they speak to you?

Very calm, nice, not to be shouting, I just like them to be relaxed. Calm, nice, errr…sociable and just have a conversation with nothing around distracting us

-So you like an adult to speak to you nice and calmly with nothing around to distract?

YES!

What is good and what is bad about being a child?

Um….The good thing about being a child is that you have a family to love you and look after you.

The bad thing is that you get told off….you get told off a lot more.

-You get told off a lot more because…

Because maybe someone might tell off you for some reason or you did something?

-Do you think that people might have to tell you more because you’re a child and you’re still learning?

Yes! We need to develop a lot more….Yeah!

-Ok that’s fair enough, so what’s good about being a child is that you're looked after and nurtured by your family and what’s bad is being told off because you're still learning?

YES!

-Okay I think that’s fair enough….is there anything else that’s good about being a child other than having your family around you?

That you get a lot more attention and you get to do more things than being an adult, your mum and dad pay for a lot.

And like every step when you go up, you’re allowed to do lots of new different things

Do you find it easy or difficult to talk with grown-ups, and why?

Usually it’s easy to speak to you, but…..-Well it’s not just me, it’s grown-ups in general…but sometimes it’s difficult because sometimes I don’t, sometimes I don’t ,like, feel like getting out where I am? So that’s why I sometimes try and write a little note for you to know how I feel and stuff, but usually I’m okay with just coming up to you and speaking to you.

-So on those occasions where you feel you to want write me a note, why is it difficult to speak to me then? …And you can be completely honest…. (reticence) no…no..(mumbling talking between the boys)

-Is it because of how you are feeling or is it because there’s something I’m doing or not doing?

Usually sometimes it’s how I’m feeling but, sometimes…

-But how would you you be feeling if you feel you have to write a note rather than come and talk?

Like….Like…..I can’t really describe it, I don’t really know.

-Okay. So sometimes you feel you can’t put how you’re feeling into words vocally and so you feel you want to write it down instead? is that right?

Yeah

-And are there any other situations where you’ve felt you’d prefer to write it down rather than talk to mummy or your teacher or anybody?

I would write a letter…. say I got told off by a teacher, and it’s something that’s quite bad and you want to describe it to your mum then I’ll write it in a letter …that I got told off, got badly told off……I’ll just describe it in a letter.

-Okay, so you'd prefer to write a letter to your mum if you’ve done something really naughty at school rather than come home and tell her?

But that’s never happened.

-(laughing) Okay so that’s never happened….

Is it easy or difficult for you to speak with other children?

Quite easy.

To me it’s sometimes hard because at our school, I try to speak to my friends and they’re all playing another a game…I can’t remember, but, like, they just ignore me when I just say “‘Hi’ can I play with you?” and they just ignore me, so it’s quite hard to try and speak to other people if I’m lonely or something.

-Okay, I understand, and is there any other reason why you might find it difficult or easy to speak with other children?

The only way it’s easy is if it’s a friend or somebody that comes over to me, like one of my friends and we just start chatting….that’s the easiest ways.

-How about in this situation when you have your cousin O with you, do you find it difficult or easy to speak here and now?

Easy. Because usually, because usually, …….if I’m at his house then he’s usually around….-and do you think that..we’ve known O forever haven’t we? Well basically yes. -So we know O very well? Yeah.

-So do you think it’s easier or harder to speak to school friends you know or school friends that you maybe don’t know so well or does it depend on the person?

It would depend on their personality really ….sometimes it’s hard to speak to my actual friends…because they’re going and playing a different game with a a few other people. I try to speak them to say, ‘Hi, Hi buddy can I play?’ and then they’re just ignoring me playing a game.

-Does that happen very often?

No….No…because then I have at least one of my year four friends to play with…..sometimes…..well….lots of times….

Do you think adults understand you? Why / why not?
Yeah.

-Why do you think that?

Because they like to help their child ?
-So you’re talking about parents specifically?

Yeah.

-And when you say help, what would you …

Well, if you’re not in trouble or anything and you're trying to talk like something’s on your mind, well they speak to you nice and calmly … and just see what’s up and then they try and fix it.

Sometimes they don’t get….well….so…they think you’re, like, older than you actually are.

Sometimes when they’re speaking to, like when they don’t … when they don’t understand you when .. like..they’re speaking on the phone, or like on their phone doing something.

-So you think they don’t understand you when they’re distracted by…

Yeah when they’re on the phone or the telly or whatever else could happen…

-So if for example someone was on their phone or…

Like technology…say their telly, their computer…

-Or maybe working? Could they be working?

Maybe they could be watching like a movie or something, maybe working….maybe, I don’t know, watching exercise videos… I don’t know, anything like that.

-So you find that they don’t understand you if they are distracted by something else.

Yes!

-Okay, very good.

What lesson would you like grown-ups to learn about how to talk to children?
It would probably be like something that I’ve done in the past, that’s been successful - or I would like to do something that I’m good at to impress other people.

-(re-iterating misunderstood question) So what lesson would you like grown-ups to learn about how to talk to children?

I’m not really sure….sometimes, like I said before, to think of how old we actually are and how mature we are.

Not treating you too old or too young, but just speaking to you appropriately, like age appropriately.

Say like… what’s good for a ten year old, not like you’re a three year old or something.

What question do you think should be on this list? How would you answer it?
I’m not really sure….I don’t really know.

Interviews with R and her daughters M, B and G

admin

07-10-2017

There are some wonderful insights revealed in this, the third and final instalment in the current set of interviews. It features mum R and sisters B who is 12, M at 14, and 8 year old G. As ever I am extremely grateful to them for taking the time to contribute.

FIRSTLY WE HEAR FROM R ...

• What has been the most valuable lesson you have learned so far with regards to communicating with your children?

That shouting and negative slanging matches benefit NOBODY. Calmness, rationality, patience, and consistency are key. If only we all had such saintly traits on tap though!
That honesty and clarity are important - even quite young children can grasp the key issues around death, relationships, money, if they’re explained in terms they understand. There is no point in fudging issues - telling them that recently deceased relatives are ‘sleeping’ will only lead to sleep disorders and nightmares (actually heard someone say this at a funeral).

• When has it all gone horribly wrong for you, and what did you do to fix it?

When everyone is tired and at the end of their tether and harsh words are spoken and doors are slammed. The remedy is always to go back, explain the tiredness, apologise, and HUG, before resuming normal service.

• What is the personal trait you mostly rely upon in your relationships with your children?

Honesty and humour.

• What is your greatest fear for future communications with your children?

That they will stop telling me things that are important to them.

• Do you have strategy for this? If not, what would help?

Keeping the communication channels open at all times, so they know that they can speak openly without fear of judgment or criticism about things that arise.

• When has it all gone wonderfully right, and why do you think that was?

When we are all in the car on a road trip somewhere, chatting, singing to the radio, having a ball together. Probably a combination of positivity, hope and their expectation of a bit of shopping on my credit card ahead!

...NOW B'S RESPONSES...

• What really winds you up about how adults speak to you?

Being treated like we're not as clever/responsible/mature

• What do you really like when being addressed by an adult?

Being spoken to fairly and rationally

• Is there anything you would change about how young people are treated in society, if so what?

That just because they're that labels them less significant. They have ideas, thoughts, feelings, problems, etc... AND they think like the future generation will, there's no point in having world leaders for people our age if they can't even connect and understand them.

• Do you find it easy or difficult to communicate with grown-ups, and why?

I'm not particularly good at talking to people I don't know, also not very good at making eye contact when talking (I find it too pressuring on them, like I'm staring into their soul😂😂) which can come off a bit rude but thats never what I mean.

• What about other children - of the same age, and other ages?

I'm quite nervous when it comes to making new friends but if it's people I know I show them me, all the perks, just me and who I am. So yea, I guess I am comfortable with communicating with other people my age.

• Do you think adults understand you? Why / why not?

It really depends on how much they know me or don't. I suppose it's hard for adults to understand our generation and how we communicate and see the world. So I guess it's a struggle for us and for them.

• What lesson would you like grown-ups to learn about how to communicate with children?

Try to think more like them.

• What question do you think should be on this list? How would you answer it?

What are the struggles for children in this day and age?

...THE NEXT ANSWERS ARE FROM M ....

• What really winds you up about how adults speak to you?

Like I'm smaller than them and that I'm not important

• Do you find it easy or difficult to communicate with grown-ups, and why?

I feel that it depends on the person I'm talking to and what age they are- personally I find it easier to talk to younger adults and old people. I think this is because I find adults in between this age maybe quite intimidating... I'm not that sure

• What lesson would you like grown-ups to learn about how to communicate with children?

That shouting doesn't get you anywhere, if you want to communicate with your child- speak rationally, shouting will only frustrate both people and the outcome will not improve the situation that your trying to solve

...AND FINALLY WE HEAR FROM G ...

• What annoys you about how adults speak to you?

Only when I'm crying and you say 'You're just tired'.

• How do you like a grown-up to be when they speak to you?

I like when they are jokey and when they talk to me about important things and be honest with me.

• What is good and what is bad about being a child?

Good - everything really.
Bad - you get pushed around by older kids, like my sisters!

• Do you find it easy or difficult to talk with grown-ups, and why?

If they're ones I don't really know that much I'm quite shy, but if it's mum or dad I'm fine.

• Is it easy or difficult for you to speak with other children?

Kind of the same as the question before - ones I don't know it's not very easy, and ones I do know, like my friends, it's fine.

• Do you think adults understand you? Why / why not?

Sometimes. Cos sometimes they assume I'm tired when I'm upset, but sometimes I can talk about stuff with them and they do understand me.

• What lesson would you like grown-ups to learn about how to talk to children?

They should listen more than talk. Not to get lost in looking at their phones and then five minutes later say 'what?'