Asking Questions that Make Kids Think
As a school counselor, I often talked with parents who were concerned about their inability to engage their children in meaningful conversations. They’d ask, “What did you do at school today?” and get the standard response: “Nothing.” They’d learn from other parents or the teacher about significant events or interactions with other children or adults and wonder why they never heard anything about it. Instead they learned of assignments that were due the morning of and projects that needed extra supplies when the stores were closed.
Set the Stage
I think that in many ways we have become so focused on doing in our society that we have forgotten how to be and listen. This translates into our conversations and our conversations translate into the way we feel, act and think. Before you ask questions, you need to set the stage for more than an “I dunno” answer. Here’s how:
- Create a routine where the focus is on conversation. This might be around the dinner table at night or during a heart to heart conversation at bedtime. Asking the question while rushing to ball practice or dance class isn’t the best plan. It also takes practice to learn the art of conversation, so don’t give up if your first attempts fail.
- Create an understanding environment where any answer is accepted without judgment or a lecture. This isn’t the time to expound on the ten traits of a successful student. You are getting to know your child and what matters to her.
- Try beginning the conversation by sharing your answer to the question rather than quizzing your child. Encourage your child to not only answer the question but to ask you questions as well. This is a dialogue. You are bound to learn something about yourself if you answer these questions too.
Great questions to ask
Here are some intriguing questions to ask your child to start a more meaningful exchange of ideas.
- What are five words that describe you and why? Not only does this question help you know your child, it helps them to define their own self-concept.
- What do you love to do that makes you feel happy? The answer to this question can lead to other questions such as…
- What do you know how to do that you could teach someone else? This helps a child not only value their own abilities but expands their reach in the world.
- What was the worst thing that ever happened to you and what did you learn from it? or What did you fail at today? This question helps children see that every situation is full of opportunities to learn. It also drives home the point that if you aren’t failing at something everyday, then you aren’t extending yourself in ways that are necessary to learn and grow.
- What is the best thing that ever happened to you and what did you learn from it?
- If you could talk to yourself at this same time last year, what advice would you give yourself? This is a great way to get children to reflect on things learned and actually coach themselves in how to handle new situations.
- If you could change the world, what would you change? What do you think would be the effect of that change? This question helps children learn about cause and effect. It also teaches that they do have the power and control to make changes in the world.
- What are you grateful for today? The benefits of focusing on gratitude are well established in research. It creates a positive mindset and is a great way to begin and end a day.
- How can you help someone today? Helping children develop a servant heart is an important concept to teach. This question changes the focus from me to you and emphasizes the power we have to impact other’s lives no matter our age.
- How do you think that person feels? Learning to have empathy for others is another important concept to teach. You can ask this question about a character in a movie, a book you’ve read or someone in real life.
What are some other great questions that you could ask your child today? I’d love to hear them in the comment section.