If you've ever worked with a coach you know that we ask a lot of questions. We do this for a number of reasons, but one of those is that allowing you to discover the answers you're looking for yourself is so much more powerful than being told what the answers are. This is a great teaching technique to use with your kids who don't want to listen to lectures.
Here are some great questions to use:
1) Who do you want to be when you grow up?
Everyone asks, "What do you want do be when you grow up?" As if a person is defined solely by a career that will likely change a number of times over their lifetime. A much better question to ask your kids is who they want to be. What kind of characteristics are important to them to develop? Kindness? Resilience? Wisdom? Perseverance? Faith? Are there political causes that are important to them? What kind of social life do they want? What role do they want to play in their communities? Do they want to lead or do they see more value in supporting roles?
A child may have to wait another 20 years before she can be a doctor, but she can begin to develop the virtues of curiosity, empathy and conscientiousness now. Helping children identify what attributes they care about will start their brains automatically working on how they can develop them.
2) What do you think about ....?
Rather than telling your child your opinion on current events, ask them for their opinion. Carefully consider what they have to say. You don't need to agree with them, but showing them you care about what they think and can listen without judgment even when you disagree teaches them that their opinion matters and that differences of opinion don't need to mean disconnection.
3) I wonder ....
OK, this isn't truly a question, it's a statement. But the point of the statement is to get your child to start thinking and talking without having to be asked directly. "I wonder if there's a way that we could have family dinner together and still get you to basketball on time." (An indirect invitation for them to start problem solving). I wonder why your dentist mentioned that flossing was so important (an invitation for them to tell you the benefits of flossing, reinforcing its importance in their mind). I wonder what it was like to be a civil war soldier. An invitation for them to think about other people's experiences.
4) Why do you think she did that?
This is a great one to use when your child is upset with another person. This allows them to get inside the other person's mind a little bit and see things from a different perspective.
5) How can I be a better parent for you?
This is hard for some parents to ask, but you may get some really good feedback that will allow you to meet their needs better. Plus it shows tremendous respect for your child and that you're doing your best even if you don't always get it right. It also models that it's ok to need improvement. Seeking constructive feedback can only make you better.
1) Don't make them feel like they're being questioned. No one likes to feel like they are on the hot seat. Ask one main question at a time with some thoughtful follow-up discussion.
2) Avoid leading questions. The point of asking your kids these questions is not to get them to produce the "right" answer. It's to get their brains working in more expansive ways. It's to show them flexibility and possibility and openness.
3) Avoid close-ended questions. A series of questions with yes/no answers usually falls into one or both of the above pitfalls. You're either trying to get them to produce a "correct" answer or you run the risk of sounding like a prosecutor.
4) Ask with sincerity. When you ask these questions you should truly want to hear what your child has to say.
One of a parent's main roles is to be a teacher. The best teaching helps students learn to think and come to well-reasoned conclusions.
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