Good conversations are like windows; they help us see and be seen.
Children can be fascinating conversationalists, but sometimes we grownups need a little help asking questions that will get kids talking.
Conversations with your child create heart-to-heart connection. You get to learn what your child feels and thinks and what she experiences away from you. Your child gains confidence and develops a deep sense of value when mom and dad want to hear what he has to say.
But we’ve all experienced the “How-was-your-day?” “Fine” syndrome, right?
Why doesn’t our child or grandchild want to tell us more? Here are three possible reasons and their potential solutions.
1. We might be asking the wrong kind of questions.
Questions that can be answered with just one word—yes and no, fine, nothing, or OK—usually end a conversation before it starts.
Instead, ask open-ended questions that invite children to share, to think, or to problem solve. Open-ended questions usually start with How, Tell me, What, Where, When, or Why.
When you ask a child an open-ended question, he feels important to you and feels that his response is important to you. He thinks about the question to express his ideas.
In addition, young children need questions that are more specific than general. And give your child your full attention as you speak to him. Put down your phone, get close, look her in the eyes.
“Tell me about the game you played at recess today.”
“What was hard for you today?”
“What are some ways you could be a friend to someone who looks different from you?”
2. We might be asking questions at the wrong times.
Some children are super talkative after school or sports practice. Others need their space and a little quiet time before they’re ready to engage. Know your child, respect how he’s wired, and time your questions accordingly.
3. We might be asking questions about our interests, not our child’s.
It’s right to care about your child’s day at school or the sitter’s and how practices and lessons are going. But asking questions about other areas of life may help you know your child better as you discover new aspects of the remarkable person he is.
Reading books and watching TV shows or movies together offer many opportunities for open-ended questions:
“What do you think is about to happen?”
“Do you think there is another way to ______ ?”
“If you were _____ , what would you do?”
Pay attention to your child’s interests and problems and encourage her with questions:
“Tell me about your drawing.”
“What do you especially like about soccer this year?”
“What do you think might happen if you _____ ?”
It might take some time to learn to use open-ended questions, to time your questions, and to ask about what interests your child.
It might take some time for your child to get used to your new question-asking style and begin to engage with you.
So, be patient. As you build respect for their thoughts and answers, you’ll find your children want to respond!