The F-word Your Children Want to Hear from You

I enjoy solving puzzles – anything involving words, numbers, and logic. I don’t always get the answer, but I still enjoy the effort.

One morning, as I sent my 6-year old off to school, I told her, “I’ve got a FUN thing planned for this evening!” Her eyes sparkled at the prospect of a surprise.

That evening, she threw herself at me the moment I entered the house. “What’s the surprise? What’s the surprise? I want to do the fun thing now!”

I extricated myself, told her I needed 15 minutes to catch my breath – yes, we set an alarm – and sent her off to do her own thing. No sooner had the alarm gone off, than she was back.

O-kay! I asked her to sit at the table with her eyes closed, and I’d bring the fun thing to her, and then we could have FUN!

I sneaked the child-level Sudoku puzzle books out of the place I’d hidden them, took out colored pencils, an eraser, and placed them on the table. “Open your eyes!” I warbled, expecting to be overwhelmed with cries of delight, if not kisses and hugs.

She opened her eyes and saw what was on the table. Blank eyes looked into mine. “This is Sudoku. Where’s the FUN thing?

🙂 It’s funny when I think of it now, but I simply refused to ‘get it’ then. “This is the fun thing! You’ll be able to solve puzzles too! Just think of it! What amazing fun!” No change in her expression as I continue to go into raptures about the FUN of Sudoku.

I must say she was very kind to me. She let me explain the objective of the puzzle, let me demonstrate how to solve it, and even solved a few on her own when I prompted her. At the end of half an hour, she asked if she could read, and I let her go.

Over the course of the next 2 weeks, I would plan Sudoku puzzle time which never really happened, and I confronted her with ‘NOT having fun!’ (How blind a parent can be! :-)) I think she had reached the limit of her tolerance by then.

I was told in no uncertain terms, “You like doing Sudoku. I don’t. It’s not fun for me. I don’t want to do it. You can solve them, or give the books away.”

I hung on like grim death. “Maybe you’ll be interested in a year or so. I think I’ll keep the books.” She shrugged.

I kept the books for almost four years (! :-)) before I acknowledged that there wasn’t any point in doing so.

I know what you’re thinking. “We do lots of fun things together – me and the kids!” “We have fun all the time!”

Er – I’m sure you do. You take the kids out – for movies, to amusement parks, on vacation, treks, hikes, sight-seeing, museums. But those are planned trips, going-out fun.

What about every-day, around-the-house fun?

You don’t need fancy equipment or toys or a large space. It doesn’t need technology. You don’t have to spend a cent. It’s free, it’s always available, and it’s (your child’s idea of) FUN!

With small children, playing peek-a-boo, repeating silly sounds, splashing in the bath, clapping , jumping, scrunching up paper, tearing paper (if it’s meant for the shredder, you might as well have fun with it before it gets there!) – all of it can be fun.

Such fun is usually spontaneous, and we manage to have it just fine when the kids are young. Your daughter jumps on your back as you’re sitting on an armchair, and you hoist her up and bring her onto your lap. It goes on from there – you might tickle each other, or wrestle, or mock-fight or anything. You both manage to have a super time with each other, and the connection between you grows and grows.

But something strange happens as your child grows up. He doesn’t want to have the old kind of ‘fun’. And you don’t get it. Or maybe you’re not able to adapt.

For some children, at a certain age, fun is about them talking all the time – telling you what they think about people things and events (yes, there are no commas on purpose! 😉 ), what happened at parties school and stay-overs at friends’ homes (again, on purpose), what they want to do, what their friends are doing or saying or thinking,… – and having you listen.

All they want from you is to have you listen. Actively. To them. THAT is FUN to them.

Don’t think they’re fooled by your nodding your head and muttering “um-hmmh”. They know how well you’re listening, how engaged you are (or not). And if they feel your heart is not in it, they’ll stop talking to you after a while. No FUN, and more importantly (from your point of view), no communication.

Fairly obvious, isn’t it? They’d rather have fun telling you what’s going on in their heads and lives than give you a daily report in the format you’ve set up. (!! Chronological? People-based? Topic-based?)

Try putting yourself in their shoes. Would you rather tell your kids about what’s going on with you because you want to? Or because they expect you to report to them?! (“Tell me everything in 5 minutes – quick! Then I have to go hang out with my friends”!)

For a teenager desperate to flex his adult muscles and show his ‘doddering’ parents (you! – 🙂 ) a thing or two, being consulted in ‘adult’ decision-making might be FUN. If he’s fond of cooking, he might like to organize your next dinner party: plan the menu, shop for the ingredients, prep and cook the meal, decide on presentation – whatever!

Let your child tell you what’s FUN for him. You can choose to engage lightly or deeply. That is your choice. But the more deeply you engage, the more FUN it will be – for both of you!

Of course, if you HAVE to engage, it’s not really a choice, is it? More about this tomorrow, but in the meanwhile, you are a person in your own right, and if something your child finds FUN leaves you cold, tell him so. He will understand and respect you for your honesty.

But there must be some things he finds FUN that can be FUN for you too! Figure them out. And go for it.

Because FUN is what keeps your child connected to you from one day to the next.

16 Responses to The F-word Your Children Want to Hear from You

  1. Preeti Hans September 16, 2011 at 12:04 am #

    Vinita, any books on parenting written by you?

  2. Vinita Zutshi September 16, 2011 at 7:49 am #

    Not yet, Preeti, but am working on one. Will announce it on the blog when it’s written! 🙂

    • Preeti Hans September 16, 2011 at 4:08 pm #

      🙂 looking forward to that… would gift the book to all the parents i know… 🙂


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