“A penny for your thoughts; a nickel for a hug; and a dime if you tell me that you love me.”
We have talked at length over the past three years of this blog about communicating with our kids. And how communication is a strong form of “teaching when…” The ditty above is a little chant that we used to say to our kids to remind them that we want to talk to them, that they are valuable to us, that we love them “ten million times infinity and beyond.” From this saying, a valuable “object lesson” developed and tied the heartstrings of my son and me in a special way some ten to twenty years ago.
The rest of that jingle (after the infamous “penny for your thoughts”) goes on to offer not only a penny for what the person is thinking, but also a nickel for a hug and ten cents if he or she says “I love you.”
Sixteen cents… a meager amount of change that elicits warm feelings (and, I admit, a few tears of longing) as I write this. Our oldest son and I used to take the “penny for your thoughts” a little further when he was a little boy—and repeat the rest of the jingle to each other, complete with a big hug and special “I love you.”
As Joshua grew up, we would occasionally remind each other of how much we love to talk—and how much we care for each other by giving each other sixteen cents. When he was in high school and worked part time, I would wake up in the morning to find him off to work—with a penny, a nickel, and a dime lying on my desk. When he would open his lunch box, he would sometimes find sixteen cents taped to the inside of his pail. Not enough money to buy lunch, for sure, but enough money to know that Mom will be waiting on him ready to talk when he gets home from work.
What objects might have special meaning to you and your child? Is there a special item that you can attach unique meaning to for one or more of your children? Is there a trinket, heart, words to a song, picture of the two of you, favorite picture book, etc. that can be utilized as an object “just for the two of you”?
I applied that to my family, assigning each child a day (Monday was Cami’s day; Tuesday was Kayla’s; Wednesday was Joshua’s; etc.). On that day, that particular child got many advantages and privileges, as well as some extra jobs. Here are some of the perks that I instituted for the child on his day throughout the years:
(1) Special focus—I tried to praise, affirm, spend more time with, tie heart strings more, etc. for that child on that day—without the child actually knowing it!
(2) Sitting in the front seat if we went anywhere (Because we only went places one or two days a week during the day during the week when my older children were little, we had to alternate whose day it was each week because otherwise, for example, the Monday or Tuesday child would seldom get to sit in the front seat since we seldom went anywhere early in the week.)
(3) Sitting closest to Mom during morning read aloud and afternoon story time
(4) Saying the prayer during breakfast and lunch
(5) Getting to choose two stories instead of one at story time (and getting their stories read first and last)
(6) Getting to have a longer talk time (Malachi time) with Dad that night before bed
(7) Helping Mom cook dinner that day (before they could cook meals entirely by themselves)
(8) Doing an extra job from the job jar
(9) Taking a morning or afternoon “twalk” (talk and walk) with Mom
My kids loved having their special day. It meant more responsibility and work, but it also meant more heart-affecting time—and they were keenly aware of that.
How many of us “sit in our houses”? That is, we sit—not to watch television, pay bills, surf the web; play computer games; read the paper, etc., but just SIT. With my AOADD (Adult-Onset ADD—self diagnosed!!!), sitting is not one of my favorite things to do—unless I am doing something else at the same time (i.e. working!). However, this is an often-overlooked period of time that we truly need to tap into in order to talk with our children.
We have to force ourselves to “sit” with our children. We need to make it a habit to just take a seat next to one or more of them each day—no electronics, no work on our laps—and just “be.” These moments are when great communication times as we are “sitting in our house” will occur.
Not necessarily formal teaching, though there are definite times and places for that. But just “being.” Just saying, “Tell me about your day.” And truly listening. Times to listen to their hearts sing the “talking song” that our family adopted as a parenting cue many years ago: “Talk to me; show me that you care. Talk to me; listen to the words I say. Talk to me; there’s so much we can share. I know you love me when you talk to me.” Times to really look into their faces and observe their countenance—to read the signs that show that deep within that son or daughter is an ache, a question, an apprehension, an issue that needs Mom or Dad time.
Recent statistics indicate that teenagers spend an average of less than thirty minutes a week in a “meaningful relationship” with their mothers and fifteen minutes per week with their fathers. Fifteen to thirty minutes a week with Mom or Dad during some of the most critical years of a person’s life! (We have said for years that ages sixteen to twenty are the highest need years for our kids in terms of parental time and support.)
Another recent study of parents and children by an insurance company said that children WANT their parents to spend time with them. Eight out of ten said they resented being put in front of a television (instead of spending time with Mom or Dad); sixty percent said they wished their parents spent more time with them and worked less.
Parents who bring work home (instead of being available for their kids), put their own hobbies and interests before the kids; and are consumed with their home and possessions more than their kids are being coined as “Maybe later” parents. As a mom of six grown kids (ages seventeen through twenty-nine) and one younger (almost fourteen year old), I can tell you for sure that “later” never comes.
So…the first piece of advice we have for establishing talk time when you sit in your home” is to “sit in your home”! Set aside other things and make the time. Fire pits; bonfires; electronic-free rooms; porch swing moments; Mom & Dad’s bedroom for midnight meetings; family meals—all of these give opportunities to sit with our kids. Let’s make it happen!