Talking with Children

Talking with Children

by Ronald F. Reed


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Talking with Children by Ronald F. Reed

Some conversations between parents and children break down quickly for no apparent reason; others go on seemingly forever, reaching no conclusion; still others appear to be direct and reasonable yet remain somehow unsatisfying. But Ronald Reed believes that some conversations are better than others. Once we realize what sorts of people we talk with when we talk with our children, and once we discover that different kinds of talk are meant to lead to different ends, then we can begin to build the talking relationships that will better the conversations we have with our children. By formulating specific rules and making concrete suggestions for building successful parent-child conversation, Talking with Children provides the ground for those relationships.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780912869018
Publisher: Arden Press, Incorporated
Publication date: 06/01/1983
Pages: 123
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 1.25(h) x 9.00(d)

Read an Excerpt

SOME RULES OF THE GAME The movies are old now and rather dated. We watch them on late-night television and they, the early movies of James Dean and Marlon Brando, are heavy-handed. Brando is a caricature in The Wild One. Dean seems almost prissy in Rebel Without a Cause. Still there is something about those movies that draws us to them. There is something incredibly powerful about the performances of those two slightly post-adolescent actors in those two, what used to be called, "youth movies." Part of that power, it seems to me, relates to the way Dean and Brando used language. When they were young, they had the ability to wrap themselves in cloaks of silence. When they did talk, when they mumbled something or other, the audience would lean forward, trying to catch what they said. The silence, I think, served two functions. On the other hand, it protected them from having to deal with all the inane dribble that gushed forth from the mouths of those around them. Dean and Brando could put on the "cloaks" and adult words could not touch them. On the other hand, when they did speak, Dean and Brando set the rules. If you wanted to talk to them, you had to play by their rules. You gave certain words a certain intonation. You used a specific shorthand. You paused here, but not there. What is so interesting about Dean and Brando, especially for our purposes, is that they played the roles, in those movies, of frightened adolescents who had no defense but to swagger and bluff, and yet the characters they played were always on top of the conversational game and the other characters were always trying to keep up. Dean and Brando were in control. If children had the same sort of conversational power, then we might simply say to children, caveat interlocutor and let it go at that. We would be justified in allowing the children to take care of themselves. But children do not have that sort of power and control. They do not use language and silence with the same sort of masterly skill that Dean and Brando did. Rather, they bluster into conversation and retreat into silences. For the most part, they, as we said in a previous chapter, are unskilled users of language. Because of this, it is incumbent on us as skilled language users to make sure, as much as possible, that the rights of children, linguistic and otherwise, are protected. We might, in a more enlightened time, set up a child protection agency whose task it would be to protect the rights of children and to shield them from foolish or unscrupulous talkers. Since we have not arrived at that stage of enlightenment, we will have to content ourselves with proposing a few rules that the intelligent and scrupulous adult might operate under when talking with children. These are meant to be general rules that are applicable to all talk between adults and children. In the following chapters, we will talk about specific kinds of talk and specific rules for those kinds of talk....

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