As a parent and teacher, I quickly learned that asking good questions was far more valuable and saved me much embarrassment before reacting to what was happening. Over time I have come to enjoy asking questions and saving my thoughts and responses for later, or not at all frequently. As a parent, you are a leader of your family, and leaders ask questions before they blurt out replies–Good Leaders, that is.
You will know that often with kids if you don’t ask a question, you certainly won’t get volunteer information. So the first point I want to make is that you must ask a question if you expect any answer. You might say, but I ask questions and only get short, very unhelpful answers. The art of asking good questions is something that educators work on their entire careers. They develop the ability to construct their questions to elicit responses that they are after. You are asking them so that the child has to give you some detail.
It might look like this: “How was your day?–Pretty good.” Instead, how about, “Tell me what you loved about your day today?” That will get a much better answer than the first question. Then ask, “What did you learn today?” If you get a short answer, follow up with some detail. Things like, “What class was that in?” or “How do you think you could use that?” Here is what is essential: Good parents can act ignorant and ask questions–to pick their kids’ brains to find out how they are processing things.
The second point is that by asking our kids questions, we connect with them. It may give you some insight into their thinking or branch off into another topic that they may not have shared. For sure, it will help to connect you with your kids. You can share some of your experiences with them, your struggles and situations, how you processed them, or how you would do them differently.
Our influence with kids is not always equal and varies during different times in their development. Developing influence with kids must be developed with kids over time. Growing influence with kids starts with a casual, low-cost, non-judgmental conversation. The Conversation doesn’t put them on guard. If you start asking questions, they will soon wonder what you’re up to, why you feel you need this information. Encourage them to share with you frequently, and be sure to listen closely. No distractions or interruptions and certainly no judgmentalism. Just good solid listening skills.
The third point is to help them reach their maximum potential by asking them questions that push them to do better and stretch themselves. Too often, we become stagnant mentally. The day runs into other days, and then when asked how things are going, we give an automated response, like ‘Oh, fine, I guess. Over time, your kids will learn that you want answers to your questions and have to think a bit and that you won’t let them off the hook.
If you are willing to work with vague answers at first and then, through your curiosity, continue to push them to higher engagement, you will find out things you would otherwise never know. Enjoy the process–you will find it rewarding.
Hopefully, Asking Good Questions leads to Conversation. Read this next post on the Art of Conversation, The Art of Conversation – Dr. Rich Patterson (pattersonphd.com)
The Mom Loves Best website has a list of 250 Conversation-Starting Questions for Kids, read them here; 250 Questions for Kids (Get to Know Them Better) (momlovesbest.com)