How to Really Get Your Kids Talking

*Updated with Book Winners* Leslie, reader SandiW, and Cindy Roberts!

I never thought I’d write about getting my kids to talk.

Because they talk a lot. Or make noise. Is this the same?

Seriously though, they are v-e-r-b-a-l.

But as my daughter moves into her tween years with her brother at her heels, I’m realizing that while they are still talking, they aren’t telling me as much as they used to.

It’s part of growing up, internalizing, maturing, thinking through some of life’s rough spots.

But this is when I really want them to open up. I want them to know that sometimes I feel different in this world, alone. I want them to tell me when their heart aches and they feel afraid. I want to know the last time they cried.

I want to walk with them, not just beside them.

I’ve told y’all about our dinner routine. It has really opened the door to some amazing communication. Recently, we’ve add this little book (150 Quick Questions to Get Your Kids Talking by Mary DeMuth) to our routine. It has taken us down a road of deep thoughts, engaging conversations and just good family time.

(I’m just digging into some of Mary DeMuth’s parenting books and I’m learning a lot!)

So, how do you get your kids talking:

  • Ask them questions–and not just “how was school?” Dig deep. Don’t press for answers though. We offer a FREE PASS on all questions. But just because they don’t answer immediately, doesn’t mean they aren’t processing and may even open up later.
  • Answer the questions yourself–our kids need to hear about our own failures and struggles. They need to know that a VERY long time ago, you roller-skated out of the bathroom at a junior high party with toilet paper wrapped tightly around your skates, only to be mocked by party-goers. Not that it happened to me. *ahem*
  • Accept their answers-the other night a question came up and I was very surprised at my kid’s answers! I wanted to say “well, what you really mean is…” but I stopped myself and just listened. They were giving the answer they knew and I realized I needed to do a better job teaching them in that area.

How do you really get your kids talking? Leave a comment and you’ll be entered to win one of three copies of Mary’s book, 150 Quick Questions to Get Your Kids Talking.


Comments

  1. marfmomma says

    when I am driving them around, we usually have our music going ….but they talk a lot and ask questions or I explain what one of the songs is saying. They are a captive audience in the van….I love those times. Our best talk times are after church on Wednesday evening….we have had some great talks.

  2. JR says

    It sounds like my kids are like yours – very verbal! They are often described by teachers as ‘chatty’ :)

    I like to try to get them to talk in the car – it seems like they get into moods where they are more into having discussions vs just chatting. I try to look for those moods and jump at the chance.

    That book sounds awesome – I’m going to add it to my list!

  3. says

    This is something that I am just learning and know that I will have to learn a lot more about as my kids grow and get older. Fortunately my 4 1/2 year old son is a chatter box and talks non-stop. When I really want him to focus and think about what he is saying we play the ‘favourites’ game. It is also a great thing to record and scrapbook. It is funny to see how their tastes change and how they grow and develop. I ask what his favourites are and we get into some really neat conversations about certain items. Thanks for sharing, I have so much to learn!

  4. says

    My oldest is 4 1/2, and as you know, it doesn’t take much AT ALL to get a 4yo talking. One of the questions I like to ask her is, “What was your favorite part about…” It’s usually either a movie, a book, a trip to the store, time at Grandma’s house, simple things, really. But her answers give me a little glimpse into her thoughts and into her personality.

  5. Lisa says

    Definitely at bedtime. I don’t know if they are trying to stall or what. I try and get some meaningful conversation all day and for some reason it all comes out as I’m tucking them in. It seems they are really sharing from their heart vs. just chatter at the end of the evening.

  6. Rachel says

    We play a game every night at dinner called “High-Low.” Each person has to state their high point of the day and their low point of the day. It is really interesting to hear the responses, and although my children are young, I learn a lot about their day this way.

  7. Shannon says

    My son is only 5 so we are just beginning this journey but at the dinner table we always ask what was the best thing about the day and then talk about why it was the best. Then we talk about what was the worst thing and why it was the worst. I’m hoping that by developing this habit now we will open up the lines of communication for the future.

  8. RLR says

    I’m looking for a good “conversation starter” tool so I can learn how to ask questions to get my kids talking!

  9. says

    This is a great post and a great reminder.
    We’re hitting that stage too.
    We’ve been using Kid Talk Cards (there is a whole series).
    They aren’t Bible-based, but often lead into great discussions that involve God and faith and choices.
    Thank you for sharing this resource!

  10. Linsay says

    We talk in the car a lot and I try to do one on one dates with them and use that time to open up. That book is defineatly going on my list!

  11. Elizabeth Hall says

    We also do a family devotion time, but ours is during breakfast. And we have special one-on-one dates with our children.

  12. says

    This is something I struggle with. I am naturally an introvert and grew up in a dysfunctional family that did not communicate hardly at all, though there was much that needed to be said, if you know what I mean! :) so this is an area that God is stretching me in and I feel so inadequate!! I would love a little help!

  13. Julie says

    My son is still pretty young, but every once in a while he’s able to express a “deep thought.” I’m looking for ways to help him do that. Right now, bed time and car time work for us.

  14. AR says

    one-on-one works best for us – also letting them know that they can ‘talk’ and not get in trouble for talking about how they feel, etc.

  15. Amy says

    We talk before bed, but after listening to some of my 10 year old son’s friends yesterday I’ve realized I need to listen more. I got a little nervous about what my kids are getting exposed to. This post came exactly when I needed to see it. I am definately looking for the book.

  16. Mandy S says

    If I just listen and let my daughter chat, she eventually says all kinds of things, even things I wasn’t expecting to hear. I rarely even have to prompt if I just let her get there herself.

  17. says

    The car is a great place to get my kids to talk (they don’t have to make eye contact). As the mom of teens, I have found it is also important to ask open ended questions so I get more than the grunted “fine” or “yup”.

  18. says

    IF I know of a hard topic for someone, my husband and I plan dinner conversation about something similar..He may talk about a problem at work ( ficticious, of course) and then I say.. how do you think you will handle that? or How would Jesus want yu to handle that?

    It may not always start a conversation for our daughters, but you can see the wheels start to turn..and it was all nonconfrontational with the child…I have a 9 year old and an almost 7 year old.. I can feel their needs to solve their own issues.. but love that we keep the highway of communication open. So far, we have been blessed with them wanting to talk… I pray that it continues!

  19. Alicia says

    I have four children ages 5 to 11 and there is talking all the time here. All. The. Time. Unfortunately, I am realizing that I often tune out so much of the chatter that I think I’m missing the important stuff. Later when I want to talk about something, they aren’t interested in sharing.

    I really want to be better at listening. My oldest will be going to middle school (!) in the fall and I am feeling anxious about making sure we have open lines of communication.

  20. karen says

    I have a teenager…getting her talking on my own merits is a struggle (more eye rolls than speaking). BUT we are working on it…mostly with me remembering to keep quiet and just listen when she does have something to say. Thanks for entering me!

  21. Sarah Z says

    I’d love to learn how to take advantage of those teachable moments as well as know just when to listen. I have 4, the oldest is 7, but I would love to hear as much about her day when she’s in jr high – high school as I do now! This book sounds very helpful!

  22. says

    Thanks Kristen for featuring the book and your guidelines. I love the idea of a free pass! I pray the book blesses your family and the three families who receive it.

  23. Sheila says

    I always fall into the “how was school” opener although my girls are only 5 & 2 so they usually answer “good – we played!” and always forget what they learned!

  24. Heather says

    Oh I really needed this today. I’ve got a third grader who’s struggling and won’t open up. This book sounds wonderful.

  25. Robyn says

    We homeschool and it seems like my girls always want to chat when they don’t feel like doing their lessons! Sometimes I have to remind myself to be flexible because what they share with me during those times is often much more valuable than the math pages they were supposed to be doing!

  26. says

    Lots of focused time. I just spend time with my children and I’m patient. After a few minutes, they start talking. And the more I listen, the more they talk.

  27. Meagan says

    With my oldest being 4, we’re just now getting to the phase of parenting where he’s really telling us things, and not just talking…and this topic has been heavy on my mind.
    I grew up in a house where you didn’t open up and talk about anything of substance. You just.didnt. Because of that, really baring my soul is very uncomfortable for me, and I SO do not want that to be my kids’ reality. I feel very inadequate to facilitate a home wherereally talking is encouraged…and long to grow in this area!!

  28. Kristi says

    My daughter (9) and I will take a walk around the block & just talk about any and everything that comes to mind. She always asks if we can keep going & I always say yes because I love having that time where it is just the two of us with nothing else to do than talk, talk, talk.

  29. says

    My oldest is a ‘tween’ and has luckily not stopped talking yet, but I know he will any day.
    I have noticed that if I want to ask him a ‘serious’ question about slightly embarrassing matters, it helps to not be facing each other. Something about sitting side by side (in the car, working on a project, playing a game) makes it less confrontational and he is more receptive to the conversation.

  30. says

    My oldest is in preschool. I kept asking her “What’d you do in school today?” Never failed that her answer was “Nothing” or “I don’t know.” So I changed my question to a statement, “Tell me one fun thing you did at school today.” Now she has an answer! It helps that the teachers write on the board the kids activities, so I know she’s doing something, but I rather her recount it. It’s amusing and educational to me and my husband.

  31. Jenny Martin says

    We talk in the car….we talk at the dinner table each nite–but with my daughter our special time is at night, when I am putting her to bed…..I think the next thing we will try is to go for a mani-pedi and talk!

  32. says

    Two ways…at dinner, we play “Best part/bad part/funny part” of your day game. EVERYONE (even mama and daddy) have to answer, and it sparks interesting conversation about alllll kinds of things. Also, I lay in bed with each of my 3 daughters at bed time. We do our quiet time (mother/daughter devo by Dannah Gresh for older two, Jesus story book for little one) and then we talk about whatever they want. Takes a little while, but well worth it.

  33. says

    If my kids tell me a quick tidbit about something that happened and I want to know more I always say…”Tell me about it…” That way I’m not just asking them a question and it gives them the freedom to tell me as much as they want about the situation.

    PS…I would love to win a book :)

  34. Lauren says

    finding the right time (ie, not the second they come home from school!) and persistance is the only way i get answers out of my bunch! I agree with telling your own stories too- when they hear me talk, they are more likely to join in.

    thanks for the giveaway- even if i dont win! :)

  35. Linda says

    I have three kids and they each talked to me at different times. My daughter, now 18, would talk with me most when I was driving her to one of her various activities. She would really open up to me. Maybe because she figured I wouldn’t over react too much when driving – LOL. My youngest, a 9-year-old son, chats it up over board games. My middle child, a 12-year-old son, likes to curl up on the couch together when nobody else is in earshot of us. I know that all these times are very special and treasure them. It’s hard sometimes to stay quiet myself, but I know I need to if I want them to open up fully and not feel judged, just listened to.

  36. Kelly says

    I usually ask my kids to tell me 3 things that happened during the day and then continue to ask more questions once they start talking about a certain thing.

  37. Misty says

    We have some great time in the morning. They like to come get in bed with me and we snuggle and my 4 year old son says Mom can we talk about some things? He also says this when he is pooping and doesn’t understand why I don’t want to hang out in the bathroom with him and chat. lol!

  38. says

    Here’s what I’ve found with teens: they like to talk side by side. We like to talk face to face. So that’s a problem!

    We want “time to talk”. Teens just want to do stuff. And I’ve found that my best time talking with my girls are not when I take “time to talk” with them, but instead when we’re doing dishes together, or making dinner together, or going for a walk, or sitting in a hot tub (seriously, everyone opens up in a hot tub. I’ve gotten to know all my kids’ friends’ deepest insecurities by just sitting in a hot tub with them. Choose a hot tub over a vacation, it lasts longer and you talk!).

    So my advice would be, don’t berate yourself if you don’t seem to have face to face time. Just increase the side by side time, and kids will share!

    Sheila from To Love, Honor and Vacuum!

  39. SandyW says

    I keep the radio off while in the car together and it usually leads to some really good conversations. I don’t know if it is because if the lack of eye contact or something else, but it does seem to be the time for the best discussions.

  40. says

    I try to ask open ended questions, instead of yes and no. And follow-up — Tell me more about that? Why do you think that happened? How did you feel about it?

    It’s hard to be conscious of this all the time, but I try!

  41. Erica says

    Sometimes I go lay in bed with them after they have been tucked in and lights out. You never know what will come out of their mouths while laying in bed whispering together.

  42. Amy says

    Oh, these teenage years are tough!!!! I’m reading Running the Rapids by Kevin Leman and it is GOOD. Mostly I’m trying to listen when they talk, I can ask all I want but until they’re ready to open up it’s a lesson on patience. Thank you for the opportunity to win, but most importantly for sharing good books and idea’s with the rest of us.

  43. says

    This is perfect for us! I have tween entering Middle School next year. Sigh. She is actually in a mode of talking right now… at 10:00 at night! I want to keep that going.

  44. diane says

    I have a hard time getting my 13 year old son to talk. I will be looking for this book at the library!

  45. Krista says

    My little one cannot really talk yet although addadady is dad and mum mum is milk :). But, when she can converse it will be helpful to have tips on sharing as a family.

  46. Shannon says

    My daughter is 2.5-she has begun recounting her entire day for me at bedtime. I love it! I want to be proactive about keeping the conversation going. Thanks for the ideas!

  47. says

    You give the best book recommendations!! This is not the first time I went from your post to my Amazon wishlist!
    Some of those questons sounds familiar. My daughter and I created a Faith Journal (Hand in hand with Jesus: it’s on the book product page of my blog) that asks some of these questions…but your post was a good reminder that it’s good to talk about these things rather than just write them down (the introvert tendency…)
    Thanks for sharing and keep those family-building book recommendations coming!

  48. Jennifer Eastland says

    I love the ideas I’ve read so far–would be so blessed to win a copy of the book!
    Thanks for being so transparent on your blog!

  49. says

    My youngest is now 13 and it’s getting harder to get her to talk. But one good way to do it is to sit with her on the porch swing in the late afternoon or in the evening after supper. If we swing long enough, she begins to open up. It’s always a good time. Thanks for hosting a great giveaway! ~~Rhonda :)

  50. says

    With five children under the age of 13, we do “alone times” (or date nights!) It is at this time the kids really like to open up and talk about whatever THEY want to – with no one interrupting! :)

  51. says

    You’re a great mom, Kristen. I love how intentional you are about parenting. I strive to be the same way w/ our girls. It’s nice to be able to read your blog and “look ahead” a little bit about what life may be like as our kids grow older.

    P.S. Have you heard of TableTopics? I think it’s similar to the book you use: http://www.tabletopics.com/.

  52. kelly fitzpatrick says

    we do “BEST. WORST. WEIRDEST.” at dinner time. each person shares there moment from each category. good way to keep my hands on their hearts. easy to instigate (i always have a weirdest moment to share) and i can remember it. thanks for sharing your pointers, kristen. loved your book! have fun at your signings. you are living my dream–in more than one area (Mercy House too!). kindly, kelly

  53. says

    Generally, my kids like talking, but it isn’t always about the best things if you know what I mean. I’d love some tips on getting them going on “deeper” topics, the ones close to their hearts!

  54. Emily says

    My daughter is not yet two, but she does express concern and pain in her own little ways! Thank you for the challenge of this post–to establish from the beginning an atmosphere of openness with our family.

  55. says

    I think my kiddo talks more when I DON’T ask him questions….but I think I’m asking him the wrong ones. :) (I need this book.) He normally pipes up about things when I’m making dinner or we’re involved in some other project….not just “talking.”

  56. says

    Mary’s Authentic Parenting in a Postmodern Culture is one of my favorites.

    My kids tend to open up more at different times, in the car is one or before bedtime. Bedtime is hard for me because I really just want to get them to bed so I can enjoy the quiet, but I’m trying to really stop and use that time to connect and listen!

  57. Jennifer says

    I’m married with 4 boys and if it were up them dinner would be completely silent. That’s just how they are, it’s ok but man would a book like this would certainly help!!

  58. Jennifer says

    My kids are 6, 4 and 2. And they’re loud. And v.e.r.b.a.l, as you stated. Dinner is sometimes, OK quite often, painful, with a lot of correcting and whining and noise. I’m lucky if all three of them actually sit quietly through prayer and eat the food. So, I bought conversation cards. I believe so firmly in family dinners, and I want to build a foundation now while they’re young, even though it’s painful most nights. The cards help. When we have a good meal, we pull the cards out, and go around the table answering the question. I’m sometimes highly amused at the answers, and they reveal things about my kids that often go unnoticed amidst the whining and complaining and daily routines.

    We have two sets. One is from TableTopics (which is what we’re currently using) and the other is a tin of cards that includes dinner games as well.

  59. Melissa C says

    Dinnertimes together are when we share our day, but sharing our hearts usually happens when I am dead tired at tucking in time, or car rides one on one.

  60. Candie LB says

    The car…my daughter loves to chat while we are driving! Since she will be 11 next month and headed to 6th grade I have a feeling we will be in the car ALOT!

  61. Carolyn says

    Usually most of our sharing happens around the dinner table. This sounds like something I could really use! I hope I win!

  62. KimberlyC says

    My 5yr old dtr loves to play the “Mad_Sad_Glad” Game each nite at dinner. We each tell something from our day that brought out those feelings. She really loves to (very) dramatically ask each question with great facial expressions. The simple question is, “What’s something that made you mad today?” etc, etc….
    Always starts great conversations.

  63. says

    I love the idea of this book! My sons are entering full tween mode, and it’s hard to get them talking. They seem to talk more while doing an activity with me, or if I just sit down beside them with nothing in my hands. Thanks for the chance to win one.

  64. says

    My youngest just turned 18. I find a change of scenery works well, and a special effort to spend some time alone outside our normal routine … a drive downtown, visit to a coffee shop, walk in the park. This often leads to some amazing conversations. Oh, and I make sure she leaves her ipod and earphones at home!

  65. Kristie says

    I think I need this book because my husband is better at getting my children to open up and talk. Would love to win. Thanks

  66. Whitney says

    My kids open up at bedtime probably just to stall but I don’t mind if I get a chance to hear their hearts.
    Very interested in the book.

  67. says

    My husband and I are just beginning the journey of parenthood, and we love learning from those who have walked ahead of us. :~) Love the idea of the book, and I’m glad I found your website!

  68. Angela Murphy says

    I am entering that same time in parenthood… the tween years and a 5 year old that thinks she is older and smarter than anyone in our family! HA! I would LOVE to have a book to help to keep those conversations flowing! :)

  69. says

    Sounds like a great book to have on hand! I think i read about it on another blog as well.

    Our son is 6. I’ve found the car is a great place that he shares a lot. I always look forward to the first thing he tells me when he gets in the car after school. I ak him questions sometimes to get him started if he isn’t particularly talkative…which I’ve learned usually means something is bothering him….about specific school activities.

    Sometimes on drives I’ll think of something and mention it (like yesterday on the way home from church we talked about praying for rain and the fire fighters fighting the wildfires here) and that led him to more questions/conversation.

  70. Melissa Y says

    I have a 3.5 year old and a 1 year old, but I get my 3 year old to talk about his day asking him silly questions. For example if I ask him how his day was and he just says good, I will ask something like, did you fly to the moon today?. He will usually say no, we colored and had circle time and did sight words.

  71. Jessica mox says

    I have three grown children, they all have a girl-child, or two (I have 4 g- daughters) and I will be getting a copy of this book for each of them, alone with your wonderful book.

    My oldest g-daughter is 5 1/2 going on 15 and reads like a 4th grader. She would like be the one to “read” the topic for the discussion.

    I love your blog and can’t even remember how I got here, but I have been reading it for about a year. Second thing I do each day after I read the blogs of my kids.

  72. Deb says

    we are trying to introduce talking at supper time – asking about the highlights and lowlights of our day. this book is such a great idea and resources and love your suggestions.

  73. says

    Lots of great advice here, some of it among your other commenters. I find it helps to ask more general question. To try to find out if your child is being bullied for example, don’t ask them directly. Ask a more general, non-threatening question such as “so, are their any kids at school that bully everyone?”

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