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Encouraging Communication: Are Girls Just Chattier Than Boys?

Talk to me, child!

Probably not the best way to encourage your kids to open up to you, but when you’ve tried everything else what can you do?

My sons are just like their dad; ask them a question and you’ll get the shortest possible answer – that’s if they’re even listening to me in the first place!

Most of the time I find out what’s happening in school via friends’ daughters who seem delighted to chat away about how their day was. So, it got me thinking – maybe it’s a male thing? Some fellow mammies of boys agree. The lack of voluntary communication from their boys is a worry for them. What if there’s something wrong in school? What if they’re unhappy, being bullied, not coping? If they don’t learn to communicate now, what will it be like when they’re teenagers?

One mammy friend suggested I ask more open ended questions. So, instead of ‘how was your day at school?’, I tried ‘what was your favourite thing about school today?’ to which the response was ‘nothing’. Undeterred, I tried ‘what games did you play in the yard today?’…’nothing.’ This went on and on for a few days with the same disappointing results.

Then one afternoon I tried a new question: ‘so, was teacher happy with everyone today?’ This question turns out to be a winner! I hear about who misbehaved (they love selling each other out), how much/little teacher shouts, who is a chatterbox, who picks their nose and eats it, and who tried to flush a banana down the toilet. The only problem with this type of ‘questioning’ is determining which bits are true and/or embellished.

Another mother suggested a focus on meal-time conversations. This wasn’t really possible for our family up until recently as I was working outside of the home most days. However, at the moment we get to spend most dinner times with the boys and have been attempting to encourage conversation at the table. This has worked, but then the boys get so chatty that their dinner gets cold and I can’t convince them to eat it as they lose interest in it.

There are times when the boys will randomly start chatting away about something and because it’s such a rarity, I drop what I’m doing and give them my full attention in a bid to encourage more of it and show them that I’m interested in what they have to say. The flip side of this is, of course, they feel an entitlement to talk at any moment, and over others (including teacher!). In fact, the only one time I’m guaranteed the boys will want to talk is when I’m talking to someone else!

I’ve read that by sharing how your day was, what you did, who you met, what made you smile, you set a good example of communication for your kids. I’m trying this out at the moment. It seems to be working. They are fascinated by what I get up to when they’re in school (trust me, it’s not really fascinating!). Slowly but surely they seem to be mimicking this and conversations are happening more frequently.

While it can be difficult to get a feel for how the boys’ day has been in school or elsewhere when I’m not around, I do still get regular quirky comments or questions however brief. My favourite ones are: ‘Mam, will you marry me?’; ‘why didn’t God give our cat a miracle and bring her back to life?’; ‘what happens if I never find someone who wants to marry me?’; ‘when I was older I used to live in Italy’; ‘mammy, adults don’t cry.’

Have any of my fellow eumoms got any other suggestion to help get the boys to open up more? Is it a ‘boy thing’? Are girls better at letting you know what’s happening in their lives? Any tips or tricks to get them to open up more? Should I just leave them be as their dad suggests?

I’d love if you could leave a comment below, or get in touch on twitter or facebook.

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