If there was ever a perfect example of “when I have kids I will never…”; it is saying, “because I said so.” I can clearly recall several occasions as a child when I swore to my future children that those words would never come out of my mouth. And then I had my babies.
Not too long ago, I found myself wishing laryngitis or spontaneous vocal cord combustion to either my daughter or myself. Either one would solve the problem. It was at that point that I decided to try and figure out another way to indulge her curiosity without wishing physical injury on either one of us. This is how I came upon the idea of turning the tables.
I still answer finite questions like, “what time are we leaving?” or “what’s for dinner?” However, when more open-ended questions are posed, I like to flip the thinking back on her. Instead of telling her, for the 683rd time, where I think her beloved stuffed animal is, or what will happen if she feeds the dog chocolate, I just ask her. At first, this tactic was met with a lot of push back and frustration. She was used to me feeding her questions with answers…in hopes that I would quickly find the end of these rapid-fire inquiries. (I never did.) Over time, she started to become proactive in thinking of solutions. Now, she shares more statements and discoveries, and relies less on me for information.
The results of this effort have shown to be more than worth it. Our conversations are more in-depth and two-sided. I get to hear more about how her mind works and how she interprets the things around her. She is less dependent and more confident. She is learning the value of curiosity and the importance of knowledge. AND I don’t have to tell her what I think would happen if she dropped a pumpkin off the roof and it landed on the dog’s head. Instead, she’ll just tell me. 🙂
These types of conversations allow kids to feel intelligent, inquisitive, self-assured, and open to sharing. You are showing that you value their opinion, and that you think they are capable of coming up with answers on their own. It is the perfect transition for you, as the parent, to begin using questions as a way of exploring even deeper with your little ones, and setting the stage for a strong relationship as they grow. Not to mention the freedom from less incessant questioning. That is probably my favorite outcome of this approach.
See below for a list of age-appropriate questions you can ask to get your kids to talk, think, and learn with you rather than through you.
¨ What do you want to accomplish before your next birthday?
¨ What is your favorite word right now? Why?
.. What was your first thought when you woke up today?
¨ When is it hard being a friend?
¨ What is the smartest thing that you heard someone say today?
¨ How were you a helper today?
¨ What is something that you use every day that you don’t need?
¨ What are you most proud of?
¨ What is something you have always wanted to ask me?
¨ Is it possible to help someone you have never met? How?
.. Is there someone that could use your help right now? Who? And how?
.. Who do you know that is a leader? What makes them a leader?
.. What would be the hardest thing about being blind? What about deaf?
¨ What is something that you know how to do that you could teach others? How would you teach them?
¨ If somebody from another planet came to Earth, what would he or she think about our world?
¨ What do you love about yourself?