Marcio S Galli

Apr 28, 2017

4 min read

Kids interacting among adults — helping their storytelling capacity

An essay about the days that kids discover that their storytelling abilities can yield value in the adult’s world.

There are situations where children enters the conversation of adults. At these moments, adults have different ways to deal with the situation: From embracing to ignoring them. In this article, I won’t look at all situations where children join adults conversations. Instead, I call attention to the opportunities when children join adult conversations because they can, because they believe they have data, and because they are exploring their storytelling.

She brought her theory to us and she educated us — is what she believed. For me, and to other adults at the table, she brought a limited observation. But we were blind to that first because she changed the subject and secondly because we allowed her space. It was like we gave her an honorable moment of expression til the point to bring the conversation back to where we were.

But something also happened at that moment. Looking at that girl, presenting her views as if she was right, reminded me of the days I started to mess up in adult conversations. When digging in my memories, I could not exactly remember adults correcting me or enlightening much my way — what they do a lot for all times I say something now.

Such situation, the lack of adult engagement, summed with evidence of a child to bring stories and theories to conversations, made me reflect that the phenomena is far from an opportunity of reasoning, or discovery, among adults. That is just perhaps a disguised part of the story.

The other side, however, is a phenomena that actually portraits the birth of one’s storytelling capacity. It is more like starting to walk again, among adults, now this time a the first steps in the real world of communication. And since they can walk, and since words now can be understood among adults; why not to put out these knowledge into application? specially now that they have control for modeling the knowledge into situations.

But looking at that kid and assuming she was modeling a situation of storytelling, I foresaw another phenomena, now revealing a few toxic components. Such toxic components lies exactly between the child’s story and the adult’s urgency to move on.

It all starts as we embrace them, with love of course, and let them enter the conversation. Being benevolent to them, and proud of giving them the opportunity, we allow such acts of expression. But reality is that we might be doing it in a very opportunistic approach: If they say something right, we get truly impressed and is enough. If they say something slightly off, we fall into either going back to our agenda as soon as possible or fearing to correct them not knowing the consequences. At the latter condition, we sometimes bother to offer a slight correction, such as to not let them believe they were right, in a way to a) offer quick education b) not hurt the child and c) bring the agenda back.

Right there might be an opportunity that frequently goes away. This situation appears because we cut the story short and don’t allow best outcomes. Good superficial outcomes are there, such as the child’s recognition that expression is the way to go, and so on. But the toxic residues surge in forms of indirect learnings, specially when adults consistently maintain that benevolent interaction.

First, the leaning that potentially invalid statements can be valid to all conversations. Therefore, they can get accustomed to use words to model partial data and bring stories, not only into adults situations but perhaps to the world. With that, we might be preparing them to not do a good job in storytelling. As we allow stories to always fit, we must consider if we are urgently skipping giving support them, to their storytelling capacities.

The second toxic component is teaching them that more analysis is not necessary — that validation is not important. This is of course difficult for adults to deal with. In some cases because adults themselves don’t even know anything about what their children brought. The humility component may also appear driving adults to let the view of the child to prevail anyway. The toxicity in analysis surges when we consistently cut — the opportunity to help children to in fact collaborate with others, to listen to new sides, and to explore new perspectives. When we do not engage, they miss that opportunity.

Of course, there is the specific discussion about the kinds of discussion and when interaction with children is appropriate. But for those moments that we let them in, when they come much motivated and happy with their guesses and theories expressed through storytelling, parents may well consider to balance their responses and engage into exploring the bigger opportunity:

Make a call for an event, a reflection that can be done later such as “let’s come back to that again later can we?” And later, bring the engagement and humility of other peers to the table: Let’s do a round here to hear the perspective of others? And even more, aiming to improve child’s storytelling, to suggest the child to exercise his or her ability to defend one or other position: How would you defend his view? perhaps to add more positions? perhaps to incorporate some new pieces of data in another event? or even concluding with a drawing that could allow that story not to die there and in fact to be transformed.

Therefore, a call not only for them but as well for us adults — a call of action to enable us to come up with better conclusions for our interactions. First, the conclusion that no story needs to be end quick under an urgent agenda. Secondly, the conclusion that more collaboration can improve our senses of ontological​ humility — we become better listeners and potentially we become better storytellers.