One minute conversations to help kids listen and learn

Ever had what you believe to be a really important conversation with your child only to watch their eyes wander vacantly away from yours as they start searching longingly for an excuse to shut you up? Ever surprised at the nonchalance with which your apparently super important and life changing lecture discussion is received? No!  Then your kids are pretty good actors!

We all know kids have certain limits on their attention span. Some parents complain that their kids are devoid of paying any attention at all. In reality however, most kids are very good at paying attention, but only to things at which they find some interest.

That is why when I want to get a message across to my kids I have started the 1 minute conversation or pop quiz. Long enough to get one clear message across, but not so long that they tune out automatically and forget every word that had been uttered.

Here are some examples.

At the dinner table or driving in the car, as soon as there is a lull on the conversation I will ask a very quick series of questions that require very quick answers.

“So Mr 12, if your friend asks you to send a photo of your bum via a text message or message app would you do it?”


“Mr 10, what if it was your very best friend who said “I dare you too. But I promise I wont tell anyone it’s your bum?”

“Ummm still no”


“He may forward it on to other friends and tell them and other people may see it who I dont want to see it and it would be really embarrassing”.

“Ok good. Now what time is footy training tomorrow?”

Get it. Very quick. Don’t harp on and on. Just quick and to the point. Let the other siblings hear the answers and learn even if they don’t realise they are part of the conversation.

There are all sorts of one minute conversations you can have related to all sorts of topics based on the ages and stages of your kids.

more examples….

“What would you do if you saw someone post a photo and say something nasty about one of your teachers at school on Instagram?”

a) like the photo but not comment

b) like and comment but not say anything nasty just a ‘ha ha’ or ‘lol’

c) do nothing, ignore and keep scrolling


“What would you do if you were at a party and we didn’t answer the phone and someones brother you didn’t know offered to take you home? He may or may not have been drinking?”


“If someone you think you know is a friend of a friend of a friend on your social media account and they ask you for your phone number and address, do you give it to them?

Now we all know we can say things to our kids and sometimes they surprise us by doing something other than that which we thought they would do.  I think role playing, particularly for younger kids is another great way to help the messages sink in better.

Now of course this quick pop quiz is just an added strategy to add to your parenting toolkit and doesn’t replace the normal conversation and connection you have with your kids that require more in depth attention. If we can, however,  tap in to their little brains with enough short, sharp messages that are quick enough to prevent the lag in to eye rolling and glazed expressions, then hopefully when the time comes for them to go one way or the other, they remember those little pop quizzes and make the right choices.


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32 Responses to One minute conversations to help kids listen and learn

  1. Emily March 24, 2014 at 8:41 pm #

    Brain cogs turning. Thanks for this post.

  2. Kathy March 25, 2014 at 10:03 am #

    This is a great strategy Martene, and you are so right about their attention spans. Our almost 11 year old daughter is having some anxiety issues at the moment and I’ve been trying something a bit similar in just asking a quick question, quick pep talk and then moving on – I don’t want to make it like a big deal and cause her to worry more. Sharing this post for sure.
    Kathy recently posted…A morning ritualMy Profile

    • Martine Oglethorpe March 25, 2014 at 11:16 am #

      Great idea Kathy. Whilst it is important to connect with our kids especially with issues like anxiety, we do have to be careful about not creating a greater sense of fear by giving it too much attention.

  3. Eleise @ A Very Blended Family March 25, 2014 at 12:15 pm #

    Forwarding this to my husband who has a habit of lecturing to get the point across whilst we all roll our eyes. Love the 1min chat!
    Eleise @ A Very Blended Family recently posted…5 ways to deal better with stressMy Profile

  4. Emma Fahy Davis March 25, 2014 at 12:28 pm #

    Great concept! Miss 11 frequently accuses me of ‘lecturing’ her any time I try to raise a touchy subject, if I stick to one minute increments she can’t possibly call them lectures!
    Emma Fahy Davis recently posted…The ‘Gotcha’ JarMy Profile

    • Martine Oglethorpe March 25, 2014 at 10:34 pm #

      Hopefully Emma! If we try to make it a bit fun too we seem to get better traction!

  5. Jen @ Survivor's Guide to Colic March 25, 2014 at 1:44 pm #

    You have the best posts! I love how practical and helpful they are. Really, thank you! 🙂
    Jen @ Survivor’s Guide to Colic recently posted…Vulnerability, Perfectionism & “Judgy” MummiesMy Profile

  6. Becc March 25, 2014 at 4:38 pm #

    I think I need this. I am sure I go the long route and lose Mr4 before the point is even made. Funnily, I have a quick tune out point and yet I expect him to listen to my great wisdom!
    Becc recently posted…Lucky Gold CoinMy Profile

    • Martine Oglethorpe March 26, 2014 at 8:54 am #

      Ah yes, sometimes listening to what we need helps us best understand what they need too!

  7. Emily @ Have A Laugh On Me March 25, 2014 at 8:31 pm #

    Mmm this is great, going to show my friend who has a 12yo… I do hope you’re still dishing out this great advice when my kids are older?!
    Emily @ Have A Laugh On Me recently posted…Do you get cranky at your kids for silly reasons?My Profile

  8. Clare Goodchild March 25, 2014 at 8:35 pm #

    Great post Marty, certainly makes sense. I will put it to the test, and share the post of course!

  9. EssentiallyJess March 25, 2014 at 8:42 pm #

    Great ideas Martine, and I can see that it would be especially effective with boys. My girls though, would expand on the question even more and turn into a giant thing, just cause they like talking 😉
    EssentiallyJess recently posted…Playing Favourites. Twitter, Facebook and Saying Mmm #IBOTMy Profile

    • Martine Oglethorpe March 26, 2014 at 8:56 am #

      Yes that is probably true. But if they want to keep talking about it even better! As long as you are getting their little minds to think about stuff! 🙂

  10. Tegan March 26, 2014 at 10:04 pm #

    This is a great strategy. Hell I think it might even work for me..I tend to glaze over pretty quickly when being told things too lol!
    Tegan recently posted…Leave Me AloneMy Profile

  11. Erica Ladd March 27, 2014 at 8:50 am #

    Awesome concept! I totally agree. Timing and attention spans is everything with getting kids to listen. Well said.
    Erica Ladd recently posted…Book of the Month – The Rainbow BookMy Profile

    • Martine Oglethorpe March 28, 2014 at 9:13 am #

      Thanks Erica, yes timing can be everything too. I know there are some conversations I have as soon as the kids walk in the door that get totally lost on deaf ears!Having them later or before they go to bed can make all the difference!

  12. Bec | Mumma Tells March 28, 2014 at 7:21 am #

    This is a great way to approach things, Martine. Nagging hits the “turn off” switch, so short, direct and purposeful conversations always served me well with teens in a classroom setting.
    Bec | Mumma Tells recently posted…Not the MummaMy Profile

    • Martine Oglethorpe March 28, 2014 at 9:14 am #

      That is great Bec, I am sure you had a very responsive class! And you are right, none of us really enjoy nagging!

  13. Fit Mother Hubbard March 28, 2014 at 7:26 am #

    Oh I love this idea. Hopefully it can be as effective with a 3 and 4 year old. Thanks for sharing. x
    Fit Mother Hubbard recently posted…Your Bed or Mine?My Profile

    • Martine Oglethorpe March 28, 2014 at 9:15 am #

      Currently trying it on my 4 and 2 year olds too! Except they usually want more information 🙂

  14. Mark March 28, 2014 at 10:19 am #


    I use a very similar technique when I need to speak to palliative care patients about life ending decisions. Short questions over a short time period seem to work best as answers seem to be honest and genuine.

    Totally agree on the benefits of concluding and moving on … except of course when the other party needs to expand or get something off their chest.
    Mark recently posted…Nurse Advocacy – Is It More Bark Then Bite?My Profile

  15. Seana - Sydney, Kids, Food + Travel March 28, 2014 at 10:17 pm #

    Good plan! Will start throwing this in… my little daughter has just started wanting to use the computer (for loom videos) so I think she’s started down the slippery slope… but questions will mainly go to the teens…
    Seana – Sydney, Kids, Food + Travel recently posted…Aussie Family Holiday Friday – News, Ideas and Inspiration for Your Family HolidayMy Profile

  16. Hope March 29, 2014 at 5:45 pm #

    Great idea. I’m struggling with holding the kids attention at the moment so will try and implement this technique!
    Hope recently posted…Paris, Je T’aime: Are You Dreaming Of Paris?My Profile

  17. Kate March 30, 2014 at 12:37 am #

    Thanks, Martine, great strategy. I often forget that strategies I would use in the classroom are good for my own kids.
    Kate recently posted…The pros and cons of the WAHM lifestyleMy Profile

  18. Natalie @ our parallel connection October 12, 2015 at 12:55 pm #

    Such a simple concept yet very real for children. Great post


  1. critical thinking skills - April 22, 2014

    […] world where our kids feel much more at home than many parents. Just as I love to give my kids one minute conversations to help things sink in, we also need to make sure our information is spilled out a little and […]

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