Parents tell – it’s what they do. That is until they stop doing it.
For so many of us, we think our job as parents is to tell our kids how to be in life – what to believe, what to do, how to live and on and on. For some reason we think we have our kids’ answers in how they should show up to their world.
The only person who has a perspective about what makes a great, happy, successful and responsible life is ourselves – me for me, you for you, your kids for your kids. Our greatest job as a parent is to help our kids figure this out so that when they decide to move past high school, they have sorted this out and have some clarity on how to meet their world and be happy, successful and responsible in it.
Telling Is Not Asking
If you tell, tell, tell – you don’t help your child, then teen, then young adult – learn how to process, think through the options and choose wisely for who they are. If instead, you ask, ask, ask, you create the environment for your kids to think about and share their thoughts, talents, passions and interests. You both become more aware of what is different, unique and amazing about each of your kids. They gather this information as they sort through their answers to your questions.
Your kids need this information to identify where in today’s world they fit – what career, job, focus and work needs what they do and love best. You need this information in order to know how to help each kid develop into his/her greatest self and find his/her unique way.
The starting point to helping our kids tune in to who they are is to get good at asking more than telling (I like to think that parents tell and coaches ask – so become more like a coach). Here are 5 great (coaching) questions to help get your kids to talk to you, and in the process, help them start to think about themselves and through the events of their lives to discover and develop the clarity to find out who they are and what they want to do in life.
5 Great Questions To Ask Your Kids
- What are 3 things people applaud you for?
- What was the last thing that didn’t work out the way you wanted – what could you have done instead?
- I see that you are struggling with this – what is something that has worked in a previous situation like this that could help you out now? Or, what’s another way to look at this?
- If you could spend part (all) of today doing what you love, what would you do?
- What do you think is the greatest or most amazing thing about you? How did you discover it and how do you feel knowing this?
You can see that there are thousands of other questions that are in line with these information-gathering and thought-provoking questions. The idea is to get them thinking and talking. So much less of this happens if you come at them with only directions and instructions – you do all their thinking for them.
As our kids age, they need to take their unique and amazing brains out for a spin. Asking questions is the greatest way for them to discover what great abilities they came packaged with (they didn’t get an owner’s manual so you have to help them discover this by helping them see it). The more you ask, the more they think. The more they think, the more information they discover about who they are and what in today’s world fits them. If you do their thinking for them, when it is their turn to show up to the world, they will not know how to make good decisions to be happy, successful and responsible in life.
I’ve always believed that questions are the answer, especially when it comes to our kids. Ask them the right questions and let them experience the utter joy and sense of empowerment of figuring stuff out for themselves.
I love this advice because while I think it is important for the parent to be the parent and be that authority figure, I also think a wise authority figure actually listens to those who they are in charge of. I was lucky to have parents who listened to how I felt more than most did back then, but at the same time, when I wasn’t listened to, especially when something was important to me, it was like talking to a brick wall, which tells the kid what you think and feel isn’t important to me right now, which is no good. Also, I think as parents and non-parent parental figures we really do need to encourage our kids to think for themselves. It’s a hard world and they have to learn to examine their own thoughts and feelings.
There is no magic formula to deal with kids and I know this from experience because I have two of them. I love all the 5 questions, but I particularly like nº3 “I see that you are struggling with this – what is something that has worked in a previous situation like this that could help you out now? Or, what’s another way to look at this?” because this is a soft approach that let’s the child think in his own way out of the problem.
Thanks for sharing!
The amazing thing about asking kids questions is the truthful and often completely unexpected answers they have! Sometimes they can reveal a kind of innocent wisdom which we ourselves have forgotten, and we might just learn a thing or two ourselves if we know what to ask!
I think any questions that open up a dialogue with your children is a great question. Even asking them simple things like, “What is your favorite color or favorite food?” at least let’s them know that you value their opinion and are interested in their lives. I will say that I have 11 Godchildren and 2 nieces and sometimes their answers will shock you, but engaging the children you love is always a good thing.
Well I have to say that I love this list. I really like the first one. Asking them what people applaud them for will certainly get them thinking about the things that they do well. First off it is good for them to know that, because it might make them focus more on that and get even better, which is something that I wish I would have done when I was younger. It also just helps their self confidence, which we all know as a kid can be lacking sometimes. Thanks for sharing.
I love this article. I have three toddlers, and find myself telling then what to do, rather than asking questions. I have found that asking them questions, gets their brains moving and brings out the best in their imagination.