Effective Parenting Questions

Questions seem to be a popular technique that parents use when communicating with their children. As a parent educator I was always trained to be careful when questioning children because we parents will use questions to:

Admonish our children:

“Why do you always have to give me a problem when you get into the car?”

Initiate conversations:

“How was school?”

Undermine A Child’s Feelings:

“Why are you getting angry, its no big deal?” “What are you getting so excited for, its not like I am asking you to clean the whole house, just your room?”

 Criticize:

“Why are you wearing that?”

Motivate:

“Don’t you want to do your homework now instead of waiting for the last minute?”

 Control:

“What time are you going? Who is going with you? Do you think this is a good idea? When will you be back? Who is driving?”

I think you get the picture. Children become confused and overwhelmed when they are asked many questions. They find even the simplest questions to be intrusive and annoying. Often they close down, refusing to communicate.

So is there ever a time when we can question our kids?

As a speech therapist I was trained to only ask open-ended questions as opposed to close ended questions. This technique is used in many fields, education, counseling, mediation, and journalism.

According to mediacollege.com, an open-ended question is designed to encourage a full, meaningful answer using the subject’s own knowledge and/or feelings. It is the opposite of a closed-ended question, which encourages a short or single-word answer. Hence, the reason why kids will not talk to us when we say, “So, what did you do in school today?” Open-ended questions also tend to be more objective and less leading than closed-ended questions.

Open-ended questions typically begin with words such as “Why” and “How”, or phrases such as “Tell me about…”. Often they are not technically a question, but a statement which implicitly asks for a response and helps promote conversation.

For example, instead of asking:

“Why do you always have to give me a problem when you get into the car?”

Ask:

“Can you tell me the best way for you to get into the car?”

Instead of:

“How was school?”

Say:

“Tell me a little about your new math teacher, I hear he has a new way of teaching algebra.”

Instead of:

“Why are you getting angry, its no big deal?”

Ask:

“Can you give me an idea of why you sound so frustrated about cleaning your room?”

Instead of:

“Why are you wearing that?”

Try:

“Can you tell me if there is a dress code for this event?”

Instead of:

“Don’t you want to do your homework now instead of waiting for the last minute?”

Try:

“Can you tell me your plans for getting your homework done tonight?”

Instead of:

“What time are you going? Who is going with you? Do you think this is a good idea? When will you be back? Who is driving?”

Ask:

“I am concerned about your schedule tonight. Can you give me a minute to let me know, time of departure, the friends going with you, designated driver and when you will be home?”

Talking effectively to kids can take a lot of patience and practice. Asking the right questions can help.

Adina Soclof, MS. CCC-SLP
Parent Educator
Bellefaire Jewish Children’s Bureau

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Comments

  1. Sometimes at the end of the day it’s hard to think out of the box. But this is a fabulous reminder Ellen. Thanks. I’ll post the link to my ozzie friends as we’re all on school holidays at the moment so this will be great inspiration for all of us.