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. 


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Interviews with L and her daughter P who is 5.

Nikky

These 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.

Nikky

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

Nikky

These interviews are with a 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

Nikky

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

Nikky

There are some wonderful insights revealed in this interview. 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?'

Interviews with S and W and their children M and L

Nikky

This interview is an absolute doozy! It was recorded with parents S and W sitting round the table with daughter M,12 and son L,9. There's a real sense of the truly honest family vibe, and I thank them wholeheartedly for their contribution to the project.

The children's responses are first, and the parents follow. Both have very natural interruptions from one another. They're a joy:

M and L's responses to S and W questioning:

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

L - They’re BOSSY! They boss you to do work around the house and stuff.


M - When they correct the way that you speak, so if you’re saying ‘Haitch’ “It’s ‘Aitch’ not ‘Haitch’” That winds me up, because I say it ‘Haitch’. And pronouncing my Ts as well.

S - And what kind of adults do that in your life?

M - Teachers and Grandparents.

S - Anything else?

L - They’re just always…like…you get a question wrong and they’re like, “NO…wrrroooarr!”

S - Which adults do that?

L - Teachers who don’t have any patience.


M - Sometimes when you’ve done something wrong..they’re not angry, they don’t shout..they are disappointed. And their voice goes down and it’s just…the raise of their eyebrows as well.. and you feel like you’ve done something terrible.

S and W - Ah! So is there something about tone of voice?

M - Whether they’re higher or lower depends on how well you’ve done. So if they go higher that means that you’ve done something good, if they go lower it means you’ve done something terrible.

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

L - When they’re PROUD of you.

S - Do they use different words?

L - Yes. Like ‘Woohoo’ ‘You’ve done it’ or something.


M - When they’re, like, being funny, their voice changes again and it’s kind of…it’s just the way they change their voice.. really depends on how it makes you feel, so sometimes if it’s like mhrrrr, “How did the chicken cross the road?” Rubbish…it’s just the way it sounds, just makes you laugh a bit more.

S - So you like it when adults laugh with you.

M - Yes.

L - But not against you.

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

M - More trust.
L - Yeah!


M - Not blaming everything on young people. Like - ‘Graffiti! Must be the young people’


L - It could be a hipster dad or something


M - Them being able to plan their life out straight away, so, that expectation of when you come out of school or education, they’re like, “I know what I’m going to do.”


L - and, you have to go to that particular school

S - Do you feel that there’s a pressure being put on you to go to a particular school?

M and L - Yes.


M - Definitely - and to do your A Levels well, get A*s, GCSEs, stuff like that.

S - Who does that come from, that pressure?

L - You.

M - Oh that definitely comes from the school. They’re like, “Look, we’ve got a standard, we’ve got an average of As. I feel like if I do bad then I’m letting everyone down in my life, and that just pressures me to do extremely well in my classes, and if I get, like a mark down then I feel, I feel TERRIBLE. I’m like, “Oh I’m not as good as everybody else”, and it just hurts a bit.

S - Leo, What does it feel like to be a child?

L - I feel like I’m just an ant in the world, some people don’t listen to me that well…they just trail off. Like nothing that I’m saying is important. It can be teachers, parents, grandparents.

S - What’s good about being a child?

pause

M - Exploring the world?


L - You can EXPLORE the world. You can LIVE. You can, like, jump around and no-one would care ‘cos you’re a child. If you did that and you’re an adult, and you’re, like, a businessman… it’d be like Oh My God!!


M - Being able to change your mind a bit more. So if you go to one club and realise you don’t like it then you can always change, whereas… so we’re a bit more flexible, whereas adults, you know…it’s just a bit harder because.… It’s going to sound horrible but….


L - Cos they’re OLD!


M - …their bodies aren’t as adaptable as ours


L - and they’re old.

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

M - It really depends. I have to have a…while to get to know them before I can fully trust them, but then there’s still a bit of a barrier, so it takes a while, about…a year sometimes, for me to fully trust them. With teachers I’m very quiet and I stay back a bit because, you know, I don’t want to be, like, too full on. I feel like that’s kinda…


L - Restricting you.


M - Yeah, I feel I’m being restricted

S - What about you L?

L - Difficult. Cos like I said before, some adults don’t listen to me.

• What about other children - of the same age?

M - It’s easy, because they understand everything, so they understand the pressure of being a young person in modern day life - exam stresses, stuff like that.


L - It depends. You’ve got to take a day to know them. If they’re bad….well…say Goodbye to you Dude! Then if they’re good - stick with them. It’s easier than adults by far, ‘cos they actually listen, ‘cos they understand us.

S - Okay. What about children of other ages?

L - If they’re a child then it would be quite easy.


M - It’s easier to talk to younger children because they don’t understand as much, and you can kind of let yourself be a bit, quite free - and you can just go back to when you were quite young. So you can just be really childish, especially from like year one and year two, you can be crazy with them and be like, “Guess what, we’re going to be a flying lion and tiger!” And stuff like that, and it refreshes you a bit more and you’re like…stuff like school doesn’t matter…and then you go back to school and it’s like, “Oh actually it does… quite a lot”

S - and what about older children?

M and L - Oooooooo!


L - If they’re near like a teen, if they’re a teenager, I would say, “Stay Back!” Teenagers get very angry.


M - I think teenagers are quite… difficult to talk to, cos they’re quite restricted, but if it’s someone younger……Yes, so younger people are easier to talk to. Older people are just, yeah, try and stay back a bit more because they’re going to be restricted and not want to open up as much.

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

L - Sometimes. It depends on the situation. If you are tired, then the adults would understand because they’ve been tired before.


M - I don’t think adults understand it..us..because we’re going through a different generation. There’s better technology, there’s horrible stuff going on and we just, we have our own thoughts and people can’t just enter our mind and we can’t just go out spilling our guts to everyone. So, they don’t understand us at all…at all. They can…like know how we’re feeling like sad, angry, happy, scared, stuff like that..


L - Yeah, but that’s understanding.


M - It’s not, understanding is when you can… when they can empathise with you..


L - They can


M - ..and adults just can’t do that now. They haven’t grown up with mobile phones. So we can text our friends, but they don’t know that feeling of when you’re in a group chat and you don’t want to leave just in case somebody says something about you. So .. messages, groups, it’s a ridiculous amount of notifications that then you don’t want to leave just because somebody might say something about you.


L - Yeah but you can always read it back.


M - That’s why you don’t leave..because you can’t see anything that goes on after you’ve left.

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

L - Listen! It’s a tip.


M - Not to say, “ Oh, I understand.” So if you like hurt yourself, don’t be like, “Oh, I can SO empathise with you because that’s happened to me.” But it might just feel totally different. The amount of people that you’ve got who…if you say something about yourself, like ..um..“curtains are better than blinds” people would be like, “I agree on that”. But you might have a total different reason behind that, you can’t just say, “Omigosh! That was exactly what I was thinking.”

S - So how can adults get better at communicating with children?

L - LISTEN!!!
M - You need to listen and…


L - Communicate

S - Yeah but how?

L - Listening and communicating together equals bonding.


M - Not trying to put words into our mouths. Let us be our own people, cos we’re…different. We’re unique people, and people need to allow that, and let that be expressed through their own way.

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

L - That they should listen.


M - The difference between adults talking to adults and children talking to children.


L - It should be children talking to adults, adults talking to children, children talking to children, adults talking to adults… like a mixed group.

S - I would say, do you feel that you have enough time to talk to adults?

L - Nope! Sometimes they just force us to do stuff


M - I think that because they think that we’re children we always have to be moving, and so, if we meet someone, there always has to be an activity to do ….because children can talk, children can hold a conversation, it’s not like because we grow up with phones and TVs, that we just can’t talk.


L and M - We can.


M - I think talking is better than being on your phone, but a lot of things just kind of make us just want to go back to phones.

The children M and L then interview parents S and W:

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

S - To Listen!


W - One of the most difficult things I’ve found was actually realising that this person in my life..maybe my child, or it may be our child.. that actually, they’re their own person as well, with their own mind and their own thoughts. It’s not a little me and it’s not a little you, it’s somebody who’s completely independent and with their own thoughts and their own feelings and trying to help them navigate through all of those feelings, I think is quite tricky as well. That’s what I’ve learned.


S - I have learned….I often hope that I try and listen, but I know that I always try and ‘fix’ you, and I try and give you solutions to your problems and maybe not give you enough space to kind of work it out for yourselves, I always kind of feel like I need to jump in and help you


L - You need to give us space so we can breathe and…


S - But sometimes when you’re having problems with friends, I like to refer to how I was with my friends and sort of give you advice and maybe…


L - But we’re in a different situation.


S - Possibly…um….yeah…I, I.. yeah…

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

W - I had two children!! .. and I stopped having more!


S - I think there have been times, since Mae, you have become an older sort of little person, and have turned into a medium sized person, I think it is trying to help you deal with problems with your friends, when I’ve felt really out of control and helpless, and I think there was one situation where all I wanted to do was to get on the phone to the parents of those children and try and sort it out, and say, “C’mon! Everyone’s being silly!” and I did step back and just let it be and let you work your way through it, but offered you love and support to do that. I don’t know if that was the right thing to do, but I felt very out of control in that situation, and I tried to listen but it was really hard for me to understand how you were feeling.


W - I think the biggest mistake that I regularly make is possibly bringing home the issues that I may have had during the day or it’s Sunday night and I’m about to go and teach year one and two in Staffordshire, and my whole Sunday is ruined because I’m starting to think about the journey and having to deal with that information, so in that situation. So - I think outside influences influencing and dictating my behaviour towards my children and my family.


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


S - Honesty. Absolute honesty - I don’t …and I’ve always said that I will try and share everything with you, even if it’s hard, I want you to know the truth about things, I don’t want you to feel that you live in a world which is separate to mine, I don’t want you to think that I don’t have real feelings like you do, so I think that honesty is the trait and the value that I want to share with my children.


W - For me it’s humour…um.. I think that to be able to laugh at this world that we live in is really important. But it’s also quite difficult because I have a little boy in my life who sometimes gets very, very angry and frustrated at the world when it doesn’t go his way. And, I try to joke with him and play with him and at those times he has no sense of humour, so I think humour is really important. That’s the trait that I rely on, and I know, M, that you have a very, very good sense of humour.

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

S - That we stop being able to communicate honestly. My fear is that I stop being able to have open and honest communications with my child. I would hate to think that either of them would hide something from me that was seriously effecting their lives - am making them very unhappy, or if they were in a situation where they felt that they were out of control and they didn’t have a way to communicate that to me.


W - One thing that I absolutely hate about my children is the fact that they are both very proud, and they get that from me… and they’re very stubborn which is what they get from me and I would hate for that trait to get in the way of our relationship…and…if..any of us made a mistake, that we would be big enough and brave enough to see through our pride, through our stubbornness and our inability to forgive and forgive and love each other.


L - We can forgive!

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

S - I do not have a strategy for my biggest fear. I’m hoping that the foundations that I lay now, in our honest conversations with each other and not being afraid to ask questions where I know I might not be able to deal with the answer might pave the way for being able to have open and honest conversations later - especially where you make mistakes or you get yourself involved in situations where you feel very vulnerable. I want to have already been through similar experiences with you, so that you feel that I can help in some way. Even if it is just a shoulder to cry on, even if it is someone to shout and scream at. I don’t ever want you to feel that you are alone, without someone to talk to to help your problems. So I’m hoping that the strategy is, that I’ve already put into place the kind of open communications that I want to have with you as you grow up.

W - I am such a bad parent… I don’t know … I don’t know whether I had kids too young.. but I don’t have any strategies. I often find that I just drift from one day to another, and I hope that I make the right decision for the right reason, when it comes up. I have you, S, and you tell me to stop being proud and . . .

S - . . . so horribly controlling

L - He has a MASSIVE ego!

W - As you can see I have no strategy to deal with anything about my kids.

S - Do you know what you can do? You can go back to what you said earlier - you have humour - and the fact that we can allow our children to take the mickey out of us and they see us as human because we have a sense of humour with them. We don’t set ourselves on a pedastal, so, I think that is the way that you deal with it.

W - I think my job as a dad, or just as a parent, is to make sure that the kids or the young people that live with me are nice people. Because eventually they’re going to have to move out and they’re going to have to live with other people, and they’re going to have to engage with other people and interact with other people, and if they’re an idiot, or if they’re somebody who I don’t like, then other people aren’t going to like them, and my job is to try and make sure that they are likeable people - and I think that’s really, really important.

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

S - I think this is a wonderfully right situation where we can involve our children in having quite a sophisticated conversation and that they contribute and that they both feel confident enough to actually have an opinion that they can share with us.

W - I think that whenever we go away or go and see friends or family and we go to somewhere like that and the kids show how great they are, I’m always immensely proud. Often when we come home, we have to pay the price for it as they incredibly tired from being well behaved and everything… but actually I think that what’s really, really important is for them to hear how proud I am of them, as young people.

S - Aaaaah!

L - Cos we’re super amazing!!

S - And who’s got the biggest ego?!

W - And I’m immensely happy and proud they take after me so much and not their mother!

S - OOOOH!

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

S - I think it’s something that is really interesting - but I know Nikky’s research is already doing it - where it’s looking at how your communication with your child changes through their ages, and I think we’re going through an enormous change at the moment as our children evolve into a much older age, where we’re having much more adult conversations, and they understand so much more of what we’re saying. We can’t sit in the car and talk about any old thing - because you always are listening. Or we can’t listen to things on the radio that are inappropriate because you understand and you listen and you ask questions, whereas when you were a tiny weeny weeny weeny baby… at the time I could just watch whatever, say whatever, because…no, that sounds really awful… but the baby..


M - Irresponsible mother!


W - Well, no, because…


S - It’s like, so… “How does your communication with your child as they grow up?” That would be a question.


W - Yeah. I think that’s really important - how can you… What are those things stopping you from communicating as well..?


S - What are the barriers?


W - I was just thinking.. You know, I hate the fact that the phones are out so often, I hate the fact that the tablets…


S - But, it’s not just the kids exclusively, it’s you as well..


W - I was just going to say, that it’s not just them, it’s me, it’s this fear..

S - And me


W - It’s the outside world and this fear that we might be missing something or that we always have to be on the go, and..


S - But the other thing I like about the phones is that it isn’t a completely isolating thing - would you say? I mean we share a lot, we share things that we find on the internet or we share games..


L - Yeah!


S - ..and I think that sometimes our own phones have been something that’s brought us together like when we share something or we’re really excited..


M - .. And sharing videos with each other that we can remember, so things like Timehop, when you have a photo from like eight years ago when Leo was in my push-chair..


W - ..and he was wearing a tutu..


S - ..and doing the Lion King..


M - ..and I was pushing him around the house. That would be something that would bring us all together and we could be like, “Oh I remember that day.”

Interviews with V and her son A

Nikky

This is a forthright set of answers from V and her son A, who is just 10. As ever, I'm very grateful for their contribution.

First V's Answers:

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

I've always believed in telling kids the truth and not keeping anything from them. Obviously you try and sugar coat things to an extent but I never lie or run away from being honest with them.

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

I've always had a very open and honest relationship with Arthur but sometimes the boundaries between adult and child get blurred when it's just the two of you in the house. Because I've treated him like an adult, unfortunately sometimes he forgets that I'm the parent, so when it comes to discipline, I have to be a lot stricter to get a response.

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

I think we've both got the same sense of humour and we make each other laugh

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

That he goes off with his friends when he's older and stops confiding in me

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

Lock him in a room and force him to tell me everything! 😆

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

I think we've got a really good relationship, he's got lovely manners and a lot of empathy towards other people.

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

Not sure!

...and now A's responses:

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

Teachers tell me off for no reason and they're very angry. Nothing else bothers me.

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

I like being praised and being spoken to nicely.

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

Less bullying.

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

I think it's very easy because I can make friends very easily as well. I just make small talk pretty much.

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

It's very easy - I pretty much do the talking.

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

No - they tell me off for no reason at school. Other grown ups understand me because I'm very funny.

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

Stop telling them off so much.

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

Nothing really!


Interviews with F and her son L aged 7

Nikky

Here are mum F and son L's responses. It's interesting to see how L is strongly effected by events around him on both a global and more personal scale. Once again, my thanks to both for their contributions.

F’s Answers

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

Patience, patience, patience. Clear words and not too many at once.

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

Frustration, take a breath and think what do we all need right now, a cuddle? Just sitting? Time out? A wee? A cup of tea? (For me!)

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

Empathy, is that the right word? Trying to see it from his point of view. I think.

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

Lies/ not talking and not feeling like he can talk to me about anything as we move slowly closer to teens.

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

Not yet. I just tell him when it comes up in conversation about secrets, that he can tell me absolutely anything. I'm on his side we're mummy and daddy and are on his side.

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

When we've all just had a really lovely day where everyone has co-operated and all has gone well and we've all had a laugh. Maybe when we’re calmer/ relaxed not occupied by jobs better slept etc?

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

I'm still thinking.

L’s Responses

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

I think maybe about when I can't answer them back and it makes me want to go ‘aaaagh!’ and give them a piece of my mind. And I get the trouble and he doesn’t.

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

Happy, just like normal not grumpy.

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

Yes I would like to change in Syria where they use children as shields but in this country like aggressive or angry.

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

Sometimes I do sometimes I don’t - they might say stuff I don't know.

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

Yeah, cool, we can do back chat together and we can have fun with our Pokemon cards and they can't tell me what to do and I can tell their mums and dads and it's sorted. I like sitting on the trampoline and me and K we talk about everything and then you come down and say will you let S on the trampoline and watch him while you make dinner and then we have to play with S and he's do so boring but he can be cute when we talk I don't know his wwwwmmmmsss stuff he says but I know what he's saying.

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

Yes adults understand me. Why? Well because you mummy will know that what the word will be. Sometimes I'm not allowed to say what happened and they believe them instead and I get into trouble.

And how does that make you feel? Ah you know they think I'm ok I've been in trouble so I can handle it. (At this point I had to give him a cuddle)
Mum can I have some chocolate? Not until after dinner. Eurgh! It's always after dinner, mummy when I'm an adult I'm going to eat chocolate while you’re cooking dinner and when I'm 18 I'm going to watch 19 films. Fab I say I'll look forward to that.

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

What I want them to learn is to let the children … let all the anger in …learn that children just have to be able to let all the angers out. I want the teacher or the dinner ladies or the bank manager or you know … to listen to my side of what is that happened.


Has something happened today L? No mummy not today. Mummy can I give M a treat? You gave her the last one last night. Oh mummy poor M's got no treats. Oh I'm sure she'll cope darling. Mummy if M could talk I'd back chat with M.

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

Mum can I have some chocolate I don't want to do any more.

Interviews with B, her Daughter N and son S

Nikky

 Here the responses are from mum B, then daughter N aged 9 and son S who is 7 and on the autistic spectrum.

B’s respones:

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

To be consistent and fair. And to admit if you're wrong. The relationship between my kids and I has benefitted from the fact that they can see that adults don't always get it right too, and that getting something wrong isn't the end of the world. Also, allowing them to finish what they are saying and encouraging turn-taking in conversation has been useful. Also making time to communicate face to face - at the dinner table, on a walk - just talking. And learning to listen. Quite often the kids are trying to tell you something, but disguise it as something else. I feel it's my job to try to get to the crux of the problem for my kids if they'll allow me too. Also, encourage them to speak in depth with other trusted adults. Our kids have lost a young cousin in the last year and at times have worried about talking to us about it, as its painful for us too, but they have spoken in depth to Aunties and Grandparents.

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

Take a deep breath and start again. Calm down and remember that you are the adult! Don't be afraid of saying you took the wrong approach, but move on positively.

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

Listening, empathy and sense of humour!

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

That I will lose that open conversation. That they will not share real fears or worries as they are older and get into inappropriate or precarious communications online. Especially with Stan as he will be a vulnerable adult.

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

We talk openly. I ask questions. We already talk of the 'issues' of online communication rather than the dangers as they will need to use this medium. But also reiterate that they can tell me anything, no matter how terrible they think it is. They are my children and I want them to know I'm aways there for them.

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

Listening. Making time. Being honest and also using physical affection as and when needed. Also, especially in a disciplinary conversation explaining why.

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

Maybe discuss physical communication. With Stan, this was particularly useful, i.e. signing. And also the use of physical affection to confirm what you are communicating. Both my kids benefit from this.

and now N and S:

• What annoys you about how adults speak to you?

N - When people are really loud. When they just talk to you, just before they shout at you. Why can't they just shout at you first and get it over with. Then they just carry on with the situation after they've shouted and you just want it finished and done. And when they use fancy words that you can't understand.


S - Only when they're angry. I only understand the second time someone says something. But I don't want them to repeat it too many times.

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

N - When you don't have to make eye contact. When they talk to you for your appropriate age, not in a baby voice. They ask about your day, ask about how you're feeling and dig deeper into your personality.


S - Nice, that's all.

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

N - Sometimes older people don't give 7 to 11 year olds much attention; it’s all about the younger ones. When you're at the supermarket and your parent meets someone and they just keep talking. Good things are when you make really good friends and have a really good time. When I talk and feel listened to some of the time, but it depends on who you're with and what you're talking about.


S - Good as I'm little and I won't like it when I'm tall, because I like being tiny.

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

N - In the middle because some grown ups you can just talk to and others you feel really shy with and you can't talk at all.


S - I like speaking to grown ups because I like how they speak, its nice. I like talking to grown ups.

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

N - It depends. If it's someone you know and have known for a long time it's easy. But if it is someone you've just met, especially if they're older, it can feel intimidating and you don't want to talk.


S - I can get shy with some children sometimes. I like speaking to people I know. I don't want to go near new people.

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

N - Adults don't exactly understand because sometimes when you're feeling one way they don't understand or get it. Then that makes you feel that emotion more. Then when they ask you why you feel that way you just can't explain. And also when you're talking about something they don't keep track and you end up talking about something different. But adults do understand you a lot of the time. It's occasions that they don't.


S - I think they do sometimes.

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

N - Not to use baby language on older children. Not to carry on about something that happened a long time ago. And use words that children will understand and don't be too loud.


S - Use words that I understand and talk normally.


Interviews with O, her son J and daughter C

Nikky

In this interview we hear from some slightly older children. C is 17 and J is 15. It's interesting though that their opinions are not very different from those of the younger contributors. Once again I thank both of them, and their mum for taking part. We start with O:

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

It gets more complicated as they get older so pick your moments wisely and think before you speak! Also I have found conversations in the car are good as there's not much eye contact so they don't feel like you're interrogating them but they also can't walk away. Also communicating with boys and girls needs to be handled very differently.

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

There are a few occasions but a lot of them stem from me choosing to discuss something when I am tired or irritable and so I tend to be more confrontational or going on too long about something, labouring the point even though I can see they have switched off, talking at them rather than to them. On these occasions I tend to apologise afterwards and simply state my main point, sometimes via text which they can digest in their own time, and always end with telling them how much I love them.

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

Patience and perseverance in equal measure.

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

That there will cease to be any.

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

Perseverance, like any relationship communication is reliant on both people taking part but I think if we persevere in asking questions and talking even they simply offer teenage grunts we will keep lines of communication open for the times when they do want to talk.

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

When we were on a family holiday in Turkey with friends. We had no work or school pressures, there was intermittent wifi so we played games and chatted and just enjoyed being together in a completely stress-free environment with a good mix of family and friends.

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

Not sure about questions, think parents would rather have answers!

NOW FOR C AND J…..

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

C -They can be really patronising sometimes.


J - They talk too much.

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

C - Being spoken to like an equal.


J - When they just get to the point.

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

C - Not to stereotype teenagers, society seems to think of all young people in a negative light, assuming they are up to no good or have low morals.


J - Not to always be so suspicious of them, like they're always doing something dodgy.

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

C - Easy, because I'm lucky enough to know lots of adults I feel comfortable with and can trust.


J - Depends on what you are talking about.

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

C - Very easy, younger kids are easier to entertain with silly chatter and older kids you can have proper conversations with about similar stuff that you experience.


J - Quite easy because they usually understand what you're talking about.

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

C - Not always, sometimes they assume that we think the same way they did when they were our age, that we have the same priorities they did.


J - Sometimes, it depends what you are talking about. They don't really understand about tech or social stuff that goes on, actually there's loads of stuff they don't get because things are so different to when they were my age.

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

C - To back off a little, we don't always want to talk about things, just let us know that you're available if we need to talk.


J - I don't know, they can ask too many questions, especially about school and they don't get what school's really like for us.

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

C - How would you like an adult to respond when you do talk to them?

Not to judge or always try and offer a solution.


J - No idea.

Interviews with E and her Daughter B.

Nikky

Here are a set of responses from mother E and daughter B, aged 5. Once again, I'm grateful to them for taking the time to participate. B's interview is transcribed from the recording of E asking her questions. Interestingly B spoke in a baby voice rather than her normal tone, perhaps due to nerves or self-consciousness, but it's hard to say for sure.

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

E - Patience! It feels so important to listen and also to tell the truth. I try to be age appropriate but I do my best to answer truthfully to even the most inopportune questions. I try my best to trust her and now she trusts herself.

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

E - When I lose my temper - if I shout then she shouts back. I realise that my temperament is the bedrock of everything, that I teach by example perhaps even more than by instruction, so I need to be even. And patient! (Of course I find this impossible sometimes...) To fix the horribly wrong situations I need to create calm and of course this starts with me - and breathe….

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

E - So hard to answer objectively, patience again perhaps? Quick thinking? Positivity?

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

E - I don't fear. Yet... TV annoys, she watches very little but when she does she is unreachable, but I see the wind down possibility of it so try not to talk it down in earshot!

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

E - I use adult speech patterns and I give respect and time, same as I do in adult relationships. I hope that as our relationship becomes more adult we can continue in the same vein. We limit the screen very heavily and have plenty of other options for wind down and time wasting - everyone needs to zone out sometimes….

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

E - It goes right when we are not rushed, not hungry and not distracted.

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

E - None spring to mind, happy to answer more if they present themselves x

• What annoys you about how adults speak to you?

B - Because sometimes they speak.... because sometimes they say... I don’t... sometimes they say that I’m not allowed chocolate.


E - Is there something that annoys you about the way they speak?


B - Yes - DJAKK DJAKK DJAKK!!

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

B - “Hello” In a normal voice.


E - What is not a normal voice?


B - DJAKK DJAKK DJAKK DJOGGG DJAGG DJAGG!!


E - Do people sometimes talk to you like that - grown-ups?


B - Yes.


E - Do they?


B - Yes………………you do!

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

B - Good - playing
Bad - I don’t get to cook so much


E - What would you cook if you could cook more?


B - Gingerbread men……..I actually did that before at Gran and Gramps’……and Salmon and Eggs. That’s all.

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

B - Easy, and difficult.
E - Why?


B - I dont really know.

E - Do grown-ups listen to you?

B - Sometimes they do and sometimes they don't.


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


B - Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

E - Why?

B - Because they always listen to me, but sometimes Liv doesn’t, cos she’s running.

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

B - Yes - because they listen to me.

• Is there a lesson that you would like grown-ups to learn about how to talk to children?

B - Yes - um ... talking nicely.

E - What do you mean?

B - Like…talking in a singing voice.

E - Can you give me an example?

B - Not really.

E - Is the way I'm talking now nicely or not nicely?

B - In the middle.

• Anything else you'd like to say?

B - No. But please may I watch it?


Interviews with F and His Parents

Nikky


F is 6.5 (the .5 matters!) here he answers my questions as asked by his mother S. Then she gives her responses and finally, there's a reply from F's dad, E. I hope you enjoy them. As ever I am hugely grateful to the family for taking the time to contribute.

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

F - “Like a lolly-pop, a really sweet and tasty lolly-pop and not a sour lolly-pop.”

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

F - Good - “Crisp. Chick. Baa baa baa ba ba ba bap. You can do what you want when you want and you don’t have work.”

Bad - “The parents annoying you. Not being able to do stuff that grown ups can do.”

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

F - “Easy. Because you have to be nice to do it and it’s easy to be nice.”
S - Later on we had a bit more of a chat about talking with adults, firstly about with ones he knows and in this case it easy…
F - “Because the grown-ups care about you. They are interested in you.”
S - And then we talked about adults we don’t know like the ones we meet in shops or the library etc and…
F - “The secret is not being shy.”

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

F - “Easy.”

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

F - “Yes.”

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

S - To be patient. Not to fill gaps in with my own conversation, give ideas time to percolate and evolve. To answer questions openly and honestly and have conversations with the same openness and honesty. That it’s not necessarily what you say that has an impact but how you say it. That there is lots and lots of communication that goes way beyond language, especially (but not exclusively) in the early years. That behaviour can speak a thousand words instantly. That no matter how well you think you are covering up your ‘big’ emotions, small people can tell. That silence and holding a safe space for when little people are experiencing big emotions such as fear and rage, (which are often communicated in a physical way rather than a verbal way,) is crucial for them to move through these emotions and learn that although they are overwhelming at the time we can and do come through them - in my experience they can’t really hear anything your saying, as they are in flight or fight mode. Often speaking at these times prolongs the distress. That it can be the quirkiest of things that you can use to communicate with someone - I’ve found that holding them close and making a low humming sound has a calming effect when especially distressed and overwhelmed.

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

S -
*Pause.

*Reflect.

*Apologise.

*Connect.

*Talk about it later when everyone has calmed down.
*Ask how they would do things differently / what would have worked for them if we could do it again.
*Problem solve together.

*Figure out my triggers and work on unpicking those - after all we all have baggage from our own childhoods.

*We also took a bit of inspiration from an Oliver Jeffers book, ‘The Hueys in It Wasn’t Me.’ In the story a lot of Hueys are arguing, it builds up over time, eventually no one can remember what they were arguing about in the first place and then Gillespie comes along and wants to know if the arguing Hueys… “want to see a dead fly?” Which of course they do and that settles everything. So now, if any of us feel that things are getting heated and want to reset we say, “Want to see a dead fly?” and it seems to calm things down instantly as it’s a very obvious cue that someone is feeling uncomfortable.

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

S - I don’t think there is any one trait that I rely on especially. So much informs how I interact with my child/ren. It’s a whole host of things. And it changes daily (sometimes moment by moment to be fair) to adapt to the daily unique set of circumstances.

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

S - I currently don’t have any fears about this. Perhaps I am missing something? Or being overly optimistic or naive but I don’t feel that a breakdown in communication is inevitable as our children grow older. I feel that if I’m continually fostering and developing a space for communication that is open, honest and non-judgemental then, hopefully, there will be no need later on for my child/ren to not communicate with me. I believe that barriers to communication arise because we become fearful of being mocked or judged or punished. Certainly in my own experience of this, I had the best, most open relationships with the elders in my family (Gran and Great Aunt) who I knew I could speak to without the fear of being belittled, without the worry of being judged or being bollocked because I’d gone and done something stupid.

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

S - Yes. Listen. Be open. Be honest. Think before I speak. Get a bit of fresh air if I need to before I say anything. Treat my child/ren with the respect that I like to be treated with. Be open to the lessons my child/ren teach me. Be flexible in my thinking. Take my child/ren for who they are - I feel that some parent/child conflict is caused by children being unable to live up to the idealised image that the parent holds of who and how they should be rather than the parent truly seeing the child they actually have.

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

S -
*I didn’t rush

*I listened carefully

*I watched intently

*I was fully present

*I picked up on both their verbal and non-verbal cues

*I responded to their needs

*I took my ego out of the frame

*I was flexible

*I didn’t worry about what other adults around us though of my parenting

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

S - What annoys you about how other adults speak to my child/ren? Or just children in general really - mine, theirs, other peoples. Gah, I could get on my soap box about that one!

E - If it is of any use I would like to offer one reply to cover all the questions above. So much of the communication with my child so far doesn’t happen with words, it’s with other objects and books, animals in the garden, silence too strangely enough, trying to employ the skill of saying not very much or nothing if it’s the best response at the time, it’s not easy but it might be the best. We all make mistakes though so when it goes wrong you have to try and pick a time afterwards to explain and make any relevant apologies for the purpose of clarification. Ultimately, and where words are involved, you have to try and be there in a once removed respect. In that being unbiased is possibly best and leaving enough space with your questions and answers so as you don't dictate solutions or form opinions. I am not especially good except sometimes at the silence part and I wouldn’t enforce thoughts.
So communication; it’s trying to meet in the middle and on the most fertile ground, though that ground is an oasis in more impoverished terrain.


Interviews with G and her son K

Nikky

This interview is with G, the mother of 11 year old K, who both live in Belgium. G answers first, then she gives a short introduction to K’s interview. I’d like to thank them both deeply, G for her honesty, and K for being willing and smart enough to speak to me in a language that is not his native tongue, and for mentioning poo!

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

Read him all i.e., his words are only part of a layer, don’t get stuck on what he says but read his whole being.

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

My ego, my inside monster, my need to control or help or be right or teach or show the best way, my way, can blast it’s way through me as a huge temper tantrum and a shout which squashes and squeeze K into a tight ball. Shut up G. Listen. Go for a walk with or without him if the need to meddle becomes too strong to swallow.

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

Practising feeling my instincts and acting on them with my brain. The heart is a good ruler and the brain is great guide. Not the other way round.

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

On the understanding that K is sensitive, meaning that everything he is presented with and bumps up against goes in deep and far but because he is shy and not a chatter it can get stuck, risking going rotten and bad and eating him up from the inside. He needs to learn what his out lets are, whatever they are, as long as they let the crap out and the good can turn to good lessons learn. K and me go out a lot together. Walking, bike riding, running, to theatre, to see an art exhibition and mostly he’s pretty dry and unenthusiastic about all but it does the job and lets off steam. K and me got out together to make our relationship move. Sometimes is moves backwards, sideways and explodes and sometimes magically moves on.My greatest fear is that our relationship gets stuck. The ebb and flow is everything, there is no blue print, there is no other example to follow, although these roles that we are in are older than the mountains but is not a solid thing.

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

I plan in my head for the day he refuses to go out with me. I train my brain to say that if I have passed on to him good handy tools with which to manage his anger, fear and joy then this is time to let go….. ah!….. and do the things that I have not done for years because I have so busy with K. K will come back, sporadically, and I need to now start practising enjoying seeing him grow up and away from us. Ideally. The reality is less hippy though.

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

Doing nothing with him i.e.: sitting down with him, for as long as I can, without my agenda interrupting what happens next. He is the leader. Very different from being available. Hanging out and letting it all hang out until it stops, is doing nothing to make something happen. Being available is already doing something to make time for something to happen.

G adds: -
K is sensitive, which is deeply misunderstood. He was extremely shy, also very misunderstood. He’s not a chatterbox, and he’s a boy whose happy place is home, and at home, and in his home in his pyjamas with a book all day at home, inside, please….. or on stage. His language and academic learning skills are, well, less, while his emotional maturity, his social skills and practical side is maturing and blooming very nicely thank-you. He doesn’t eat sweets, but does like a good strawberry tart.

• What annoys you about how adults speak to you?

It’s a hard question for me, I can’t really think. Nothing really pops up in my head I don’t think there’s a lot really that adults annoy me most.

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

If they talk to me, I like them to be a bit interesting and a bit nice. That’s how I like it. Polite and kind. Some people in my school are not really like that.

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

What I like is that you are still young and you can…ja…you have your whole life still, if you are young.


What I don’t like - you’re a bit small. I mean I’m 11 but I am smaller than some people that are 10 years old. But I’m not the smallest.

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

Sometimes I find it easy, sometimes not - ja, it hangs over but…sometimes with my mum it’s a bit hard to get a.. sometimes for me it’s hard for me to talk with grown-ups, but most of the time it’s easy to talk with grown-ups. It’s hard to explain actually. It’s hard for me to know why. When I meet a grown-up I know really quickly if I like them or not.

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

It’s quite easy to talk with other children, but of course there are some kids who are a bit mean to me, so sometimes I am able to play other games with other kids - but not football cos I’m not really into football. But yes - with other kids I like. I like playing handball, I think you call it in English, and I like basketball, and other games, but those are the two main ones. My friends and I, when we spend time together, we talk a lot.

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

I don’t think they understand me so well, because my English and my Flemish are not so good. Also I had something very bad wrong with my ears when I was younger. They understand me quite easily, but in the end it’s quite hard to understand me sometimes. It’s difficult to say why.

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

Sometimes I have to show them with my hands or with my face what do I mean or stuff I am saying.

• Would you say you are a happy person?

I’m mostly a happy person. What makes me unhappy? If a person goes in front of me then I don’t really say to them, I just let them be or if I get a bit cross with them, I just walk away and play with someone else or talk with someone else.
What is the thing in the world that makes you feel best, what’s the thing that really makes you feel good?
If people are quite happy, and….I can’t really find the word…if people are like really patient with the world, like if they see something on the floor, like poo. Where we live there’s a lot of poo on the ground and we don’t like clearing it up. We think that if their dog poos on the ground then people should pick it up.


Make the world nice for one another.

Interviews with Siblings M and L

Nikky

I received these responses from M, a 14 year old girl, and L, her brother who has just turned 9. My thanks to M and L, who completed the written questionnaires independently, M writing down L's answers. M's are the first set.

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

When they jump to assumptions and don't listen to the whole story.


This means they can't see the bigger picture and fully understand everything.

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

When they treat you like a peer rather than a child. If I am spoken to by an adult I can sometimes feel under minded or overlooked.

Is there anything you would change about how young people are treated in society, if so what?
Not necessarily but I do think that all children should be treated the same no matter how privileged they are. No one should be treated like less.

Do you find it easy or difficult to communicate with grown-ups, and why?
Depending on the subject I can find it easy with some grown ups but not all understand. For example you can't talk to your teachers the same way you would with your mum.

What about other age groups of children?
Sometimes speaking to older people (17-20ish) is easier as they have more experience but not so much that it's overwhelming and non relatable.

Do you think adults understand you? Why / why not?
Not all the time because times have changed so much since they were little that they can't always properly relate to the situation. Like cyber bullying for example, no adults can really relate to the way that makes you feel or how to resolve it because they never went through it.

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

-they should treat you as a peer
-they should listen to the entire story
-they shouldn't assume things

What question do you think should be on this list? How would you answer it?
Who would you first turn to in a bad situation and why?

My mum as I don't have many close friends and it's important you can talk to your parents.

What annoys you about how adults speak to you?

If they treat you unfairly.

How do you like a grown-up to be when they speak to you?
Kind, generous.

What is good and what is bad about being a child? Good-you get more presents.
Bad-you have no control (not in charge).

Do you find it easy or difficult to talk with grown-ups, and why?
Difficult because you can't speak back the same way they speak to you.

Is it easy or difficult for you to speak with other children?
Easy because they're just like me and they're not in charge of me.

Do you think adults understand you? Why / why not?
Sometimes because they don't always know what I'm trying to say.

What lesson would you like grown-ups to learn about how to talk to children?
Don't speak with rude words or shout.


Interview with SEN Head Teacher Chris Pollitt.

Nikky

This interview is with Chris Pollitt who is Head Teacher at Brooke School, a Special Education facility in Rugby. If you'd like to find out more about the school, you can do so here: http://www.brookeschool.co.uk

What is your underlying philosophy when it comes to communicating with children?

There are three aspects to my underlying philosophy - I'm going to do them in reverse order actually.

There needs to be a desire, for children, they need to want to communicate, they need to be able to say that actually, if I communicate this, my life's going to change so much. The phrase is, developing the 'Emotional Regulation' so that the child can see the benefits of communication. So they can actually think, "I can see a benefit, I can see a joy, I can see that this is going to make me feel so much happier - and actually it's going to help me deal with the feeling not so happys too."

We need to give the skills to communicate, whether it's through verbal communication or a range of different ways, we need to have a strategy, to identify for the children what the strategies are. The most important thing we need to do though is that we need to be receptive to communication, and the phrase, I believe, is 'Transactional Support'. If a child wants to communicate, if a child is using all the strategies they can, both the ones they're taught and the ones they pick up themselves, then we've got to be receptive to it. If we can master that, then that's how communication happens.

So I think it comes down to the Social Communication Strategies, the Emotional Regulation and the Transactional Support, and I think that’s it. It’s not just about giving the skills, it’s about does the child want to communicate, making them sure that communication can bring so much to them, and then the other thing is being receptive to those communications. It might not be with symbols, but every single time they want to communicate, we respond.

In the years that you have spent finding effective ways to communicate with children, what would be your number one tip?

Respond. Absolutely response. Whatever a child does, however they do it, whatever the observable phenomena, it’s a level of communication. There’s a phrase which - before I started Headship - it’s linked to the FISH philosophy, which says, “Be there.” So the biggest, the bottom line, with the symbols, the signs, the language they use… it's actually being responsive. Whatever that child does, be responsive and acknowledge that communication. It’s the only tip.

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

It’s gone horribly wrong when I’ve felt and thought that the source of success in communication was just giving children the strategy. That’s when it goes wrong, it goes wrong not just for me, it goes wrong for everyone. So when we say, actually, we want this child to communicate, we’re going to give them symbols, we’re going to give them picture exchange, but we’re not going to in any way respond to them appropriately and we’re not going to in any way actually help them to be in the right place to communicate, that’s when it goes horribly wrong, because what happens then is that the child learns to hate to communicate, and they think that actually it’s more stress to communicate than if they just keep it to themselves. “What’s the point… what’s the point because I’m communicating now and I’m being told off for it. I’m communicating now and nobody’s responding to it. I’m communicating now and actually they’re not understanding at all because they’re not giving me the time to respond."

Are there any rules that encompass all age groups - if not what are the differences?

In the context of Special Education, I think 'age' is a misleading word, I think it’s probably more conceptual. I think that in conceptual groups, common factors are, as I’ve said before, a willingness to respond - and a willingness to observe as well. We almost adopt, sometimes, a textbook approach to communication - I’ve never read a textbook that encompasses all conceptual groups. It is about observation, it’s about responding, and I think that’s the key in all year groups. There are differences in conceptual stages, and that’ll come as the child develops those communication strategies, but the essence is always the same. We want to communicate, we’ve got to communicate, we’ve got to be models of communication, we’ve got to respond to communication, so when it comes down to the bottom line - that’s it.

If you could make one cultural change with a click of your fingers with relation to children, what would it be?
Just the one?!! I think there’s a lack of understanding. I think especially, there’s a lack of understanding that mental health is for all age ranges, you could have a toddler with mental health issues, but actually we assume that only adults suffer with it, but put that on a child…. the baggage that children have to carry these days - well most adults would collapse. So I think, if I wanted to make a cultural change, that actually when people are making judgements about children’s behaviour, I’d say well actually no, tell yourself, "I need to understand this more." The cultural change would be doing more to understand, and finding time to understand - it goes back to what I said before about observing and responding to children. So a cultural change - more understanding.

Something else, I love this, I share this with visitors, it’s about the notion of play.

There’s so much done, everyone says children should play through primary, they should play, they should play, they should play - then teenagers, not allowed to play. "Grow up!" Then you get to adulthood, and companies spend billions on the benefits of play for adults, but at the most crucial time for emotional well-being, it’s prohibited to play. When actually, for me, teenage years are the years where all the play has to go to - because play incurs such a therapeutic process - and actually I think that’s difficult. I think Vanessa (Deputy Head) said before that trying to explain to parents the benefits of playing is actually quite difficult, but play will help children to become strong members of society.

It’s amazing - in primary you do so much stuff around role play, you have your corners and everything, about developing early real life skills, they're developing themselves. Then all of a sudden, STOP, sit down at a desk and I’m going to teach you stuff that will never, ever be used in your life, I’m going to teach you how to sit at a desk for six hours a day. So I think it’s that lack of understanding, and I think we’ve got to be faithful to what children need rather than what a textbook, or what a curriculum says from thirty years ago. It’s what children need now and a child of today is very different from a child of 1988, that’s when I was in school myself and I think the reality of... it seems a very distant reality. For some reason we’re not understanding children as much as we used to - well, I don’t think we even used to, I just think children have so many different pressures now.

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

I think you probably covered it in the first one, with the philosophy of communication. I’m always interested in what people’s beliefs are, if you stripped it down and took communication out, what the world would look like.

Next week, I'll be publishing a similar interview with answers given by a couple young people, the contrast and matches with Chris's responses is quite interesting!