The scoop on parental chitchat: Less is more

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It took one spectacularly lousy camp pickup to convince me of what I've long suspected: I talk too much.

I have a vague recollection of parenting experts mentioning the folly of engaging your child in too many conversations. What kids need are decisions, they said, not questions. Instructions, not negotiations.

I also recall ignoring this advice outright, thereby setting into motion several hundred scenarios like the one that went down when my daughter was 4 and we were driving to preschool.

Her: Can we stop at Jamba Juice?

Me: Not this morning, sweetie. We don't have time. I wish we had time to do all the things we like to do every morning, but we only have a limited number of hours in a day, and sometimes we have to put off the things we like to do in order to do the things we have to do, and isn't it great that we have other days — like tomorrow! — where we don't have to rush to preschool and we can (blah, blah, blah, blah, justifying, apologizing, explaining).

(Silence.)

Her: So can we stop at Jamba Juice?

I continued down this verbose path for another four years, ensuring my daughter, and now my son, would learn to tune out the first five minutes of everything I say and tune back in toward the end when I'm nearing the part where I make my point.

It's not a perfect system. But I tell myself I'm raising them to understand thought process, talk through problems and prioritize open and honest dialogue.

As if.

Allow me to re-create the recent scene at camp pickup.

Me: Hey, guys! Do you want to hit Dairy Queen and tell me all about camp?

Son: Yes! Dairy Queen!

Daughter: I hate Dairy Queen. It's the worst ice cream ever.

(Dairy Queen has been, prior to this very moment, manna from heaven.)

Daughter: I want Miko's.

Son: Miko's! Miko's!

Me: We have to pick up John (my stepson) from piano, and Miko's is in the opposite direction, and (blah, blah, blah, justifying, apologizing, explaining). OK, fine, we'll go to Miko's.

Daughter: Actually, I want Dairy Queen.

Son: I hate Dairy Queen!

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