Some of you already know I spend a lot of time thinking about how to communicate with children. I love to think about the economy of language, how many words to say… or not say! Hint: across the board, I find fewer words are better.

I like to think of effective communication as a puzzle. I ponder questions like, which words can I choose that will have the most impact? How can I express myself while giving respect to my needs as well as those of the child? How can I talk about a challenge without making anyone wrong? These are just a few of the questions that drive my work and writing.

Some of the most important words an adult can say to a child are,

“I don’t know.”

Followed up with,

“I wonder how we can find out?”

Beginning with “I don’t know” is powerful for all involved. Firstly, it sure does take the pressure off of you! I’ve encountered adults that seem to think they are failing their children if they aren’t the expert in all things. Doesn’t that sound exhausting… not to mention impossible? Secondly, if we’re trying to combat perfectionism and anxiety in gifted and twice-exceptional children, why don’t we start by combatting those tendencies in ourselves and model what it looks like to be a humble, authentic, and fallible human?

There’s already a lot written about empathy and how vital it is to maintaining meaningful relationships. But how do we impart empathy? I can think of a few ways, and they all lead back to the same need — authenticity (also known as deep honesty). I believe that being authentic is how we best show empathy.

Ending the conversation with “I wonder how we find out” isn’t an ending at all; it leaves room for wonder. Find the joy in wonder and pass it down to the children in your life. This is how we can make meaning of learning and instill it as a value in our children… and, ultimately, our shared human culture.

P.S. This is different than telling a child to “Google it.” While Google may be where you end up, heading straight there without any heart-opening communication or exploration can sap the fun and wonder out of those moments.