The Power of Questions in Parenting

Written by guest contributor Courtney DeFeo

If you need advice on getting kids to sleep, or creating an avid reader, or making healthy lunches, I am not your girl. However, I can talk. And I have two girls that talk. And my husband is a communications expert. We are basically a family of experts in talking. In fact, most of my progress reports in elementary school were marked with “talks too much.” Anyone else?

Isn’t it funny that God can use anything for good? Since I left all my progress reports behind, I now get paid to write and speak. Take that Mrs. Hall, my fourth-grade teacher!

So how do we use words, talking and conversation for the good?

ASK GREAT QUESTIONS.

As a mom of two middle schoolers, I can attest to the power of questions. It’s not a new parenting approach, but it’s a critical one from toddlers to teens. No matter if you’re raising extroverts or introverts, talkers or non-talkers.

I am naturally bent to teach and lecture and share so many things with my girls. However, I’ve been humbled that they really don’t want to hear me lecture them. My beautiful soliloquies have honestly not gone over too well. My kids might be present, but they are not learning.

Can’t we all remember a parent lecture or two? I just wanted the moment to end—and end fast. My kids are most engaged in conversation when they discover ideas themselves versus being lectured. They DISCOVER new information, truth, and ideas when they are invited into the discussion.

It has been said, “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”

Asking great questions does not mean quizzing your kids. It doesn’t mean drilling them and expecting the best answer. I’ve learned that I can quickly squash the conversation and worse, a child’s spirit, when we judge them for speaking up. The goal is to have your kids share consistently and honestly, no matter the topic. It’s more than what you say—it’s how you say it. Or, how you ask it!

Here are just a few question ideas:

Do you think faith is real? Why or why not?

Who made you smile today and why?

Can I get your opinion on a situation at work? How do you think I should handle it?

What have you heard about the [current event], and what questions do you have about it?

What confuses you about racism in our country? What would you do if you were the chairperson of this issue?

If you had a best friend struggling to make friends, what advice would you give him or her?

What would you do if …

What’s bugging you lately?

Here are few times to try this:

When you’re on a family walk

When you’re eating dinner

When they are in the car (kids talk more when eye contact isn’t required)

When you’re in carpool

When you’re on a road trip (go Lighthouse!)

When you’re catching up on the day

When you’re putting them to bed

When you’re waiting

“Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” ~Deuteronomy 6:7 The more questions I ask, the more I understand and learn about my kids. Every child wants to be seen, known, and heard. I am always amazed how capable, smart, and intuitive my children really are when I give them a chance to share. When we ask great questions, we get an eye-opening window into their ever-changing culture, their current comprehension, and their growing character. Also, don’t get discouraged for your shy kiddos or ones that don’t share often. Keep giving them space to share. When they finally do, affirm their ideas and the way they think.

You got this!

Courtney DeFeo is most known for being a factory of ideas for families and leaders. As a former marketing professional for Chick-fil-A, Courtney has a history of creating memorable programs and ideas that motivate others to action. She is the author of In This House, We Will Giggle and Treasured, and creator of ABC Scripture Cards and the kindness movement Light ‘Em Up Acts. Courtney is beginning her studies at Dallas Theological Seminary this spring to pursue a master's degree in Christian Leadership. Courtney’s most honorable mention is her husband Ron and their two wildly fun girls (Ella, 14 and Larson, 11). They reside in the DFW area, love serving with Lighthouse Family Retreat, and live to consume table-side guacamole. Connect with Courtney at CourtneyDeFeo.com.

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