Caroline was thoughtful as I described how our young adult kids call from time to time and ask us to help them think through a situation.
“After they describe their dilemma, we usually ask them thoughtful questions to guide their thinking,” I explained.
“Hmm.” Caroline thought for a moment. “Neither my husband or I ever call our parents asking for input with a challenge. When we talk to our parents we don’t feel listened to, we feel lectured. They were very authoritarian when we were young, and they really haven’t changed.”
That insight about her own parents guided a great discussion about the kind of relationship she wanted to have with her children as they grow.
Perhaps you relate to Caroline’s feelings. So consider these questions:
- What kind of relationship do you want to have with your kids when they are older?
- How can you build toward that now?
When kids ask for our input or advice, how we respond can communicate messages (intentionally or unintentionally) about our beliefs about them. Open-ended questions convince kids they can learn to think for themselves, while lectures convince them of their incompetence.
So next time your kids are struggling with something, spare all of you the agony and ditch the condescension and advice-giving. Try asking thoughtful (not leading) questions instead. Here are some examples to choose from:
- How are you feeling about this situation?
- What is the key issue you need to solve?
- What are your options?
- What would be helpful or unhelpful about each option?
- Are there any verses from the Bible or examples of how Jesus dealt with situations that would give you insight?
- Which of your solutions would be really helpful in the short term, and build the character you want in the long term?
If raising kids filled with confidence and wisdom is your goal, then thoughtful questions will be your key tool to help them get there.
To learn more about how to ask questions, check out our post on The Art of Asking Good Questions.