Teaching the art of asking good questions is a favorite goal in our daily work with parents. Why? Because we’ve learned that lectures and answers often shut kids down and build walls between parents and their kids, while good questions build wisdom, strengthen connection, and lead to kids taking more responsibility for their lives.
To illustrate this in real life, we’ve invited Joel and Amy to write about their journey to learn to ask good questions and build wisdom with their two teenage sons.
I remember the feeling of cluelessness one day when my husband and I were sitting in a session with our parent coach, Chad.
We’d been learning from Connected Families’ resources about how to communicate to our two teenage sons that they were safe and loved. While we were growing and our hearts were changing, we still had many unsolved problems and felt stuck. After we described an issue with one of our sons during a coaching session, Chad asked, “How does your son feel about it?”
Dead silence. We were totally clueless. We said that we thought he felt a certain way, but really we had no idea. Then Chad asked, “Well, have you ever asked him?”
What are the best tools parents have to teach wisdom and guide their kids? Questions!
Often times we forget that a simple, well-timed question can help our kids grow and learn much better than a long-winded lecture.
Consider the following benefits of questions:
Deep inside most parents is a strong urge to control their children. It may seem beneficial or even “work” for a few years, but there are diminishing returns if the goal of control is not given up significantly by the teen years (probably earlier than that).
When we take control of our kids’ lives we often end up making decisions for them that they are capable of making on their own. But maybe even worse, when we take control away from our kids we deprive them of learning that they are capable of making choices and living with the consequences whether positive, negative, or neutral. When we micromanage our kids’ lives they learn that we are responsible for their life, not them.
We frequently have parents contact us about struggles with kids’ homework and grades and we regularly coach parents through that challenge. We’ve also written a fair bit about this in our book Discipline that Connects, and on our blog. So we’re quite encouraged when we hear of parents who empower their kids to take charge of their own homework. Two families with kids of different ages shared their schoolwork stories in the last few weeks, with a common approach that we’ve seen help hundreds of parents. Bottom line – quit nagging!
We can hardly believe it’s 2015 already! Before we dive into a year of new blog posts, we thought we’d dwell for just a moment on some of your favorites from 2014. Here are the ten most-clicked parenting tips of 2014.
P.S. If you know a friend or relative who might benefit from some Connected Families insights, this would be a GREAT post to share with them!
We often see a common parenting cycle when kids are prone to anxiety.
In short, it goes like this:
- Child feels anxious
- Worried, but well-meaning parent “encourages” the child toward to overcome the anxiety by pushing the child
- The child gets more anxious and withdraws, or has a meltdown in order to feel in control
- The child feels more ashamed and anxiety builds
- Parents feel scared about the future and the anxious (and usually very emotionally sensitive) child picks up on this and grows even more anxious
- Repeat at increasingly higher intensity
This cycle might be about homework, new experiences, social situations, or any number of challenges.
Brian and Jana were very concerned about how much work it was to get their 8-year-old son, Brady, to do much of anything – look up from his book when they talked, get ready for school in the morning, get dressed for baseball, take a shower… Just to get the kid to tie his shoes was an aggravating power struggle.
Brian observed, “I need to out-think him to get him to do something. And it has to be creative, or it doesn’t work.”
To help Brian understand and feel the impact of the “outfoxing game” on his son, I asked Brian how it would feel if his boss needed to outmaneuver him or threaten to dock his pay to “get him to perform” at work. Brian answered, “Pretty unmotivating.”
I just watched a video from a youth ministry leader. He intentionally stated one reason it’s so hard to relate to teens, and unintentionally stated the real reason.
His intended explanation is that teens are hard to relate to because of the big relational changes that happen as kids move toward independence. The authoritative style of parenting — “you say no and the child doesn’t argue”– used with young kids no longer works, so a new form of relational influence must be learned. More listening and negotiation is needed to empower teens toward independence.
He’s right to say that the authoritative parenting used with young kids contributes to the problem. But he’s wrong to brush over it as if it’s expected to be this sort of parent with young kids.
He’s right about the importance of relational influence. But he’s wrong to say that we should wait until kids are teens to learn to have relational influence.
In our work coaching hundreds of parents of teens over the years, we’ve hit on six themes that draw the parent-child relationship closer. Read through and let us know in the comments below which of the tips you want to implement in your family.
We meet or talk nearly every day with parents. Most of them contact us because they need help. After hearing bits of their story, we usually ask, “What are your goals as parents?” In their answers we learn much about what we think is the big problem with parenting. While every story and response is unique, a common theme shows up in the answer. It can be summed up this way: “Our goal is well-behaved kids.”
There is nothing wrong with wanting well behaved kids. But as a first priority it pits parents against kids in power struggles of all sorts. Or — and we think this is even worse — it produces compliant kids who do right things, but have empty hearts.