A Way to Talk with Our Kids About Their Day

Rushing to get dinner on the table, thinking of what still needs to be done before the kids are tucked away for the night. We sit down at the table only to realize that we forgot silverware. Someone spills their drink. We rush through a prayer with one kid falling out of his chair and another picking his nose. We start to eat when a little voice pipes up and says, “Can we do high and low tonight?”

High and Low is a game we try to play fairly frequently during dinner. It is as simple as it sounds. One person starts and lists the high point of their day and then the low point of their day. When they finish they pass the imaginary baton to the person of their choice. The game continues until everyone has had a turn.

Here are four reasons we play this game and why I want to be disciplined in keeping it on the menu:

  1. Each person gets a turn.

If your family is anything like ours, some members will fight to talk and are happy to fill all the silence with the sound of their own voice. Others not so much. Passing the baton to each person makes sure we hear from all members and that our conversation is not discriminating, with conversation highlighting only those who have had a good day or are naturally extroverted.

  1. We make time for the good and the bad.

I once had a friend tell me they would be happy to play this game, but they only wanted to play the high part. They thought the low part would be too much of a downer. I see their point, but I want to push back. I want to build an atmosphere in our family where we talk about good and hard things. I want to model vulnerability to my family and share my lows with them, like when my feelings have been hurt. In fact, the times I share a vulnerable low, it seems as though (sometimes) it is reciprocated with a seriousness on the part of others as well. I think one of the most important things that we can do is to help our kids learn how to handle their disappointments and express their sadness in a right way. (And I think that’s a biblical point of view, since the laments make up the largest genre in the Psalms.)

  1. We get a glimpse into each person’s heart.

Now don’t get the wrong idea – this game is not always a pretty perfect picture. Sometimes the game could be classified as a flop from a deep meaningfulness standpoint. Highs can be petty things like getting a slushie at Sonic and lows can be pretty inconsequential, which is especially hard when you are aware of something major that should be that person’s low (i.e., disrespect for a parent or ugliness to a sibling). But even these so-called flops are worth hearing because they give a glimpse into the heart of the person. I don’t want to be under the illusion that my kids, my husband, or I get it right all the time. Even on a good day, our hearts are mixed. I think we can parent better, love more fully, and point to Jesus more surely when we understand what is motivating (our own and) other’s heart.

  1. We set an expectation that meaningful conversation is part of our family.

My oldest kid is approaching eleven. He still talks to me, most of the time. But I know that is not always going be the case. There have been times, and will be more in the future, when he doesn’t want to share much of his thoughts with me. This game starts a pattern that says, “We talk in our family.” I know that there will be some push back on this game as our family gets older, but I think my kids will be less likely to push back if it has always been part of what we do. I can’t expect my teenager to suddenly start telling me what was good or bad in his day, without it having been part of our life when he was four, eight, or twelve years old. This game is just a small way to think proactively on what might be helpful down the road.

We don’t play this game every night, but we do try to play it regularly. And it doesn’t have to be at dinner — it could be on the way to school or soccer practice, or before bedtime — the key is in doing it, not when it is done.

And so when I hear that little voice asking, “can we play high low tonight?”, I am thankful. I could easily find life too hectic to stop and initiate this game, so I am thankful for the help of my kids. I am thankful for this game and the tradition it has slowly become in our family and pray it will continue.

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