Questions are a simple and powerful tool. Asked well, questions can open hearts -did you know Jesus asked over 300 questions?
Consider the question, “What happened?” The lilt of voice, the facial expression, the tone and even the sincerity of the question can either open or close the one you’re asking. Just because there is a question mark following a sentence doesn’t mean it is a good question, does it? There is an art to asking good questions!
There are a number of things to keep in mind when asking our kids questions. Here are a few to consider, in the form of — yep — questions!
How’s my body language?
How I look when I ask a question says a lot! Is my body language imposing or inviting? Am I scowling with my hands on my hips? Do I have steely, accusatory eyes or have I gotten down to the level of my child and given them an inviting smile? If you are the daring type, replay a recent interaction while you stand in front of a mirror. What do you look like? One mom started a video camera during bedtime (often a particularly difficult time for the family) and captured herself in her typical form. Her comment after watching the video: “I wouldn’t respect me either if I were my kids.”
What’s my tone of voice?
My tone of voice says about as much as my actual words. Is there a trace (or more) of sarcasm? A hint of accusation? Or do my questions suggest that I want to hear what you have to say to me? If words and tone don’t match, it can be very confusing for kids and cause a disconnect. It could be risky — and don’t ask if you don’t want to hear the answer — but try asking your kids how they hear you when you talk. There may be some exaggeration, but you may be surprised by some of the insights you gain!
Do I already “know” the answer?
Answering a question asked by someone who already has the “right” answer in mind can be very frustrating and often belittling. Our kids don’t appreciate it either. It takes some practice, but learning how to ask sincere questions — to be truly curious and non-assuming — is much more honoring to our kids. How did you think that went? What did you most appreciate about the evening? What are some ideas you have about that? What would you like to do differently next time? What is your best hope about it? What is your worst fear?
What if they say “I don’t know”?
Many parents get frustrated when they begin asking questions because they get a bevy of “I don’t know”s as the response. This is normal! Many times our kids don’t really know what to do with our questions, especially if for many years of their lives they have heard us barking out orders and delivering critiques. Being asked good questions can be quite a shock. It can also be kind of uncomfortable. So give kids some space. Let them think about it. Ask if you can ask them again tomorrow after they’ve had some time to consider. Doing things differently means there will be some growing opportunities — for you and your kids.
So… Where do I start?
- Start paying attention to how your kids perceive you. What do you look and sound like? Do they believe that you really are interested and really do care?
- Brainstorm some questions to ask your kids at times where you are most likely to tell and instruct, instead of ask and inquire.
- Start asking questions!
Give it some thought, then give it a shot and let us know how it goes!
Want to read more? Check out Part 3 in this series!
In our online course The Power of Questions: Less Arguing. More Wisdom. you will learn the art of asking questions that build internal wisdom and character in your kids, and create a culture of teamwork in your family. Join us today!