By Anya, Joe & Sumay McPhail
WEquil.School is coming out with a new in depth series of interviews on our TV show about Talking to Kids! We want to meet with potentially interested families that have stories and insights on how to empower young people. This challenging topic with a lot of differing opinions and emotions behind them. We wish to engage with caring parents and confident young people who can help us deliver creative positive insights for both kids and adults.
WEquil.School's mission is to help young people around the world develop confidence and cultivate curiosity by using their unique strengths to add value to others. We help them do this through a project based learning platform that encourages kids to demonstrate projects they create and in so doing become teachers to other kids that share their passions. This model is incredibly powerful as our Demo Days can attest ... but the greatest success stories come with love and support from parents.
Joe WEquil wrote an article on Parenting Principles of Persuasion that serves as a starting place. These principles suggest that parents and adults generally can encourage young people to become more confident and responsible by treating them more like equals. This is challenging...especially for families that are conditioned to expect conflict. The first step is to "Not keep secrets" ... meaning that adults can win trust by being radically transparent with kids about what you really think and feel. That includes admitting that we adults often don't know what to do. When we do that we invite kids to help find a better path forward. We stop "talking down" and starting "talking to" our kids ... showing them with our actions that they are worthy of being heard.
Joe's views on parenting were heavily influenced by an article Sumay wrote when she was nine called Lies we tell kids. She helped me better understand why we seemed to have such a natural collaborative relationship. Before reading this I had assumed that we were just lucky to have such a positive and creative dynamic. But her key point suggests this can be learned and not just fate. By always being honest and explaining my reasons for decisions that impacted her life ... she was empowered with the knowledge to develop her independence. We always took the time to tell her the "Why" behind everything. In doing so she developed an appreciation for life's complexity and that appears to have been a key driver of her curiosity.
Life is complicated...so are relationships...every human is so beautifully unique that it is impossible for any adult, or child, to know with confidence that they know what is best for someone else. If we are truly honest ... we must admit that we don't even know what is best for ourselves a lot of the time.
That is why the best way to talk to kids must at a minimum involve deep humility. It's not enough just to be honest about what we think ... we need to be honest about how little we really know about ourselves, and especially our students and children.
Topics, Questions and Answers
We will be documenting topics, questions and answers from adults and kids in this project to discuss. If you are a WEquil.School member already then share your thoughts on our private Slack group. If you wish to participate then consider joining WEquil.School!
2. Why do some adults talk down to kids?
First, it’s not just adults...people talk down to other people all the time, and kids probably do this even more than adults. There are several reasons.
Maybe that’s the way adults talked to them when they were kids...so they may not even know there are other ways that could be more helpful.
Many parents may feel talked down to by their kids, and just like kids they can also sometimes feel defensive and react by using their authority.
They may not realize how much more mature their kids would act if they felt more confident. By listening and empowering young people to feel good about their interests and successes parents can make them feel bigger and thus more open to suggestions from adults without feeling talked down to.
Parents often care so much about their kids that they fear the future ... and as a result feel pressure to force kids to do what they believe is best for them.
2. What are some strategies for kids that feel talked down to?
Respect and appreciate everyone at all times. Acting out and fighting against authority doesn’t solve anything and is generally destructive.
Have compassion for everyone because none of the reasons why people talk down to other people is the result of malice.
Recognize that the vast majority of adults in kids lives have gifts to offer, but adults may need help from kids on how to share them.
3. Under what scenarios do kids feel talked down to?
4. What examples can we use to help clarify strategies for adults and kids to avoid losing intent or becoming vague?
5. What are some strategies for kids being talked down to or bullied by other kids?
You mentioned, “people talk down to people all the time, and kids probably do this even more than adults.” How does opening the idea to more scenarios strengthen your “reasons” people might do this? How does exploring other examples strengthen your tool set for when you are talked down to our help you better recognize it? For example being “bullied” my other kids and “talked down to” by adults- can you use similar skills to aid the situation?
Feel free to share suggestions and thoughts on this subject...we are thinking this through.