How to talk to children?

At The Hairpin they have an interview with John Steinbeck’s son, re: a letter the dad sent the son that was at Letters of Note recently.  Here’s an excerpt:

One of the things my father had going for himself is he talked to children like he talked to adults. Kids loved my father, because he didn’t talk down to them. They asked him a question, he gave a serious answer, he treated them as serious human beings.

My mom did the same thing, when I was young. She used to talk to me, even before I could talk, like I was an adult. I think that’s the right way to go about it.

I think so, too, especially if you expect your children to talk like adults. It’s really quite amazing what children will absorb if you give them the benefit of the doubt to understand that the intelligence is there. They may not be able to verbalize themselves completely, but comprehension is there.

Right.

And if you feel that someone is taking your question seriously, you’ll take the answer seriously, even if you don’t quite understand it all.

I’ve been really appreciating the lively conversation all 12,000-odd of you have been generating in the comments.  If you know how to talk to children please discuss.

Bear in mind, though, Thom Steinbeck’s final warning:

Well what do you think it is about this letter that resonated with so many people, though? I mean, it was all across the internet, everyone was passing it along.

You can’t trust the internet for that, they’d pass along a car accident if they thought it was amusing!

(photo: “[Girl next to barn with chicken]” from the Library of Congress.)


“In Shark’s life there had been no literary romance.”

In Shark’s life there had been no literary romance. At nineteen he took Katherine Mullock to three dances because she was available.  This started the machine of precedent and he married her because her family and all of the neighbors expected it.  Katherine was not pretty, but she had the firm freshness of a new weed, and the bridling vigor of a young mare.  After her marriage she lost her vigor and her freshness as a flower does once it has received pollen.  Her face sagged, her hips broadened, and she entered into her second destiny, that of work.

In his treatment of her, Shark was neither tender nor cruel.  He governed her with the same gentle inflexibility he used on horses.  Cruelty would have seemed to him as foolish as indulgence.  He never talked to her as to human, never spoke of his hopes or thoughts or failures, of his paper wealth nor of the peach crop.  Katherine would have been puzzled and worried if he had.  Her life was sufficiently complicated without the added burden of another’s thoughts and problems.


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