Questions: The Most Important Tool for Building Wisdom

building wisdom in kids

What are the best tools parents have for building wisdom in 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:

Questions help keep parents out of “lecture mode”.

Lectures tend to be a form of blowing off steam for parents. Especially if we tend to give the same ones over and over– lectures rarely communicate any new information and do little to help our kids grow in wisdom. If we think back to our own childhood, most of us will not be able to recall a lecture we received from our parents, guardians, or teachers that truly helped turn on the light bulb. Most lectures tend to “exasperate” our kids, not train them up in wisdom.

Occasionally I’ll say to my kids, “Do you know the basic points of what I would say in a lecture about this? If so, why don’t you tell me the 3 points and we can spare the lecture.” Believe me, they know what I’m going to say!

Questions invite kids to think rather than tune out.

When we wind up into those familiar lectures, kids can easily roll their eyes and turn their ears off. But when we can calmly ask kids questions, it activates their brains and enlists them in thinking about what needs to be done and what they can do to make it happen.

Take, for example, a messy room. Most parents have encountered a scenario where they walk into a room and find a mess left at the hands of a child. At this point there are a couple options:

  1. Say in an exasperated tone, “I asked you to pick up your toys when you were done and now there is a big mess. You know you are supposed to….” and on and on we go.
  2. Say in a curious tone, “It looks like someone had a lot of fun in here! Which are your favorite toys? Do you remember what needs to happen after you are done playing? Where are the toys supposed to go? What will happen if the toys don’t get picked up before dinner? Do you want me to help you get started, or do you want to do it on your own?”

Or how about a scenario where a teen has misused technology? Again, there are a couple options:

  1. Say in a fear-driven tone, “I can’t believe you went behind our backs and watched that garbage. You want to be given more freedom and privileges, but it’s never going to happen if you act like this. You know what they say, ‘Garbage in, garbage out’. No wonder there is so much garbage coming out of you lately.”
  2. Say in a concerned, but grace-filled tone, “Seems like you’re watching some things we agreed you wouldn’t watch, is that right? It’s tough sometimes, isn’t it? What’s your understanding of why we wouldn’t want you watching this stuff? What do you think it does to our relationship and trust? How do you want to move forward from here?”

Questions help keep parents from jumping to conclusions.

It’s easy for parents to see one child as the instigator and another child as the poor victim. (Especially if we were the instigator or the poor victim in our family growing up!) When we ask questions, it helps each child feel respected and allows them to share their perspectives.

One mom recently reported that when an argument and hitting broke out while they were driving in the van, she calmly pulled the car over, turned around to face her kids and said, “Sounds like you are having a rough time back there. Can you help me understand what’s going on?” There were the usual accusations and it didn’t end quite how mom had hoped, but the impact was significant. Days later, the child that was the “usual suspect” said to mom, “You didn’t accuse me right away in the car the other day. That felt better.”

So… Where do I start?

  • A good place to begin is to start noticing the number of times you tell rather than ask. Pay attention over the next few days to the number of times you tell your kids something they probably already know.
  • Then, think about what question you could ask instead. Rather than saying, “Okay kids, it’s time to get ready for bed.” Say, “Hey kids, what do we do at 8:30? You’re right, you get ready for bed. What do you want/need to do first?”

Give it a shot and see what happens. It’s a great way to empower your kids!

Want to learn more?  Check out  Part 2  and Part 3 of our questions series, “The Art of Asking Good Questions.”

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!

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Chad Hayenga
Chad Hayenga
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