“Hi Chip, how are you?” Ms. Ruth asked as she greeted people walking into the church building. Chip gave no response, in fact he kept walking! I was not there to witness this (probably a good thing!) but Ms. Ruth let me know about it afterwards. She knew ‘throwing the ball back’ was not only an important life skill but also a matter of showing respect. So, she stopped him, got down on his level and reminded him that when someone asks us a question, we answer and ask them one back! This made quite the impression on Chip. Now, every time we enter the church building and Ms. Ruth is greeting, Chip’s voice sounds extra cheerful as he makes eye contact with her and throws the ball back! It really does take a village to raise a child.
What does this have to do with patience? Well, when we have patience with others, we take time to throw the ball back during conversation and listen to their response! What if you don’t feel like engaging? Patience. Maybe God put you in their path to encourage them at this very moment. In a hurry? Patience. What could be more important than taking time for another soul?
Introducing this concept to the boys brought me so much joy! They each picked out their favorite ball and we went outside! As I threw the ball I said, “Hey! How was your day?”
“Good” they responded. Then, they threw the ball back to me with no question!
“Uh oh! Having a conversation is like playing catch with someone. When they throw the ball to you by asking a question, you don’t hold onto it. You throw it back! You throw a question back! As you throw the ball back to me, ask a question.”
“Ummm how was your day?” they asked looking at the ground.
I laughed as I said, “Are you asking the ground about its day? Remember to find the person’s eyes you are talking to!”
And this is how we got the game started. When there was a lull in conversation, I would ask them what we should talk about. If we couldn’t come up with something that flowed with the topic we were on, I gave them an idea such as:
- Tell me about your favorite animal.
- If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?
- What if you could only eat one food, what would you choose?
- Who is your favorite book character?
- What’s the best thing about your brother?
I didn’t let this drag out too long, but I encouraged the boys to each ask 2-3 questions (or make a comment about what the other person said) for each topic.
Now, some of you may be thinking, this sounds fun but too much work. Maybe you think your kids will just pick this skill up as they watch you (the parent) model this behavior. To that I say, every child is different and that is certainly possible! But, as an SLP and mom of boys, I have seen firsthand the benefit of direct instruction/learning through play when it comes to teaching a new skill that may not come naturally for all.
When we are out and about and someone asks the boys a question to try and engage with them; now, I simply say “throw the ball back!” I love watching a smile come across their face as they formulate a question, because they think we are the only ones who understand this code talk!