Talking About Your Kids at Work: How Much is Too Much
Parent or not, we’ve all been in an awkward situation talking about someone’s children. You politely ask, “How old are your children?” and 30 minutes later, you’ve heard about not just Jackie, Johnny, and Susie’s age, but their likes and dislikes, pets, stomach flu, favorite outfits, and other general childhood eccentricities. Even if you absolutely love children, have your own kids or grandkids, or want to have them someday, there comes a time when hearing about someone’s children just goes too far.
Disclaimer: We’re talking about children here today, but the same things in this article could be said for people who talk too much about their spouses, cars, and shoe collections at times.
If you’ve ever been that person who has talked just a little too long about your children, here are a few tips to know when to stop and when to keep going:
- Use the 1:1 rule – 1 child, 1 piece of information. If you have three children and someone asks you about them, say their name, perhaps their age, and one identifying piece of information. For example, “Yes, three children. Jackie, she’s 5 and loves all things Fancy Nancy right now. Johnny is 10 and just starting soccer, and Susie is our smallest. She’s 2 and always has a smile on her face.” Then, if someone keeps asking you questions, you can answer them, but you know you haven’t gone too far.
- Funny stories are always welcome. It’s often the hardest to know when you should talk about your kids day-to-day with coworkers who see you regularly. Do they really want to hear about Jimmy’s recital last night? Probably not. A good ground rule to follow here is to err on the side of telling only stories that are universally funny or outrageous. When my friend’s little girl lost a stuffed animal and hung signs all over the neighborhood looking for him, I loved hearing about it. Or when your kid recites all the lyrics to a Metallica song, it’s worth mentioning.
- Put some question marks at the ends of your sentences. Often parents can ramble, and those listening feel like they’re in a one-sided conversation. Make sure you find time to ask questions of the person you’re chatting with. What’s going on in her life? Does she have children? What are her career goals?
- Don’t use your children as a way to defer talking about you. So often, I’ll ask a friend, “how are you” and get a tale of the kids’ schedules and nothing about her! Women do this all the time. I do, and I don’t have kids! Take this as a warning to check yourself in this area. When someone asks about you, they want to know about you, not necessarily your kids.