We want to be a part of our kids’ lives. We strive to help them be the best they can be. We wish they would be more cooperative. We desire to raise honest children. We hope to have strong family ties that last a lifetime.
In our quest to encourage honesty, cooperation, and a family spirit we often ask our kids questions. But many times, our questions produce the opposite result.
Here are 7 questions to quit asking your kids.
1. How was school?
If we want to get into our kids’ world, asking a question like this won’t help. It can easily be answered in one word: Fine, Good. OK. Instead ask more specific questions like, “Who did you sit next to at lunch?” “What was the best part of your day?” ” What was the worst part of your day?” Include modeling how to converse about the day by sharing your day with your child. As your child matures he will be able to start a conversation with you or others by using this technique. An extroverted kid is ready to talk right away. The introverted child will need some time alone and to be quiet before sharing about his day.
2. Will you________?
We think we are being polite and nice when we preface what we want with a question. The problem is when posing a question the child has an option to say no. If there is an expectation that a job must be completed and there is really no choice in the matter, don’t ask– state. Instead of saying, “Will you clear the dishes from the table?” say, “Hudson, after dinner and before screen time, please clear the dishes from the table.”
3. Do you want to______?
This question is closely related to, “Will you_____?” Will you refers to an action. Do you want to is linked to an emotion or preference. Sometimes feeling don’t matter. There are times we do things even when we don’t want to. “Do you want to pick up Fido’s poop in the backyard?” Who would say yes to that? Don’t ask –state. You could give a choice where either outcome is OK with you. For instance, “Do you want to clean up the yard on Saturday or Sunday?”
4. What part of NO don’t you understand?
Sarcasm is a toxic verbal weapon. Avoid it at all costs. Say what you mean. Be clear and concise. Sarcasm is condescending, shaming, and dismissive. And..it will come right back at ya’ as your kids mature. Most families value kindness and respect. Restate your frustration more honestly. “I feel frustrated when _______.” “I can see you really want to do this, let’s figure out a plan that will work for both of us.” “Why do you think I said no to this idea?” Get your kids thinking. Encourage respect and kindness. Jettison the sarcasm.
5. Who did this?
We ask this question ALL. THE. TIME.Why do we inquire when we know who the culprit is? Do we think it will encourage honesty or responsibility? It doesn’t. It does the opposite. The littles think, “If she doesn’t know who spilled the milk, I’m sure not going to tell her.” Older kids remain quiet to see how this will play out. Instead state the obvious,” I see the milk has spilled. It needs to be cleaned up. I can help you clean it up.” or “I see the car has a new dent in it. The dent needs to be fixed. Let’s figure out a plan to take care of that.” By doing this responsibility is encouraged and we haven’t put our kids in the very tempting position to tell a lie. Then while helping them with the spill or the the dent, a conversation can occur on how it happened and the best action to take going forward.
6. Why did you__________?
Kids and their actions can be baffling. Often we just want to get inside their head and understand their motivation. Or… perhaps we want to drive the, “I told you so” point home. Those are the moments we tend to fall back on the “Why’s”. However the why question comes too late. It is always after the fact. Help your kids learn from their mistakes. Ask, “What will you do differently the next time?” Train don’t shame.
7. Why aren’t you more like________?
Theodore Roosevelt’s famous quote, “Comparison is the thief of joy” is true. Today more than ever our kids are comparing themselves to others; to siblings and to peers. Social media can be the catalyst for insecurity and discontent. We do not need to add to that. Treat each child as an individual with unique strengths and weaknesses. Build sibling relationships rather than bust them with comparison.
To increase cooperation, family unity, and individual honesty and responsibility avoid these 7 commonly asked questions. Set a loving tone in your home by speaking with respect and demonstrating kindness.
1 Corinthians 13:4-8
co-founder of 1Corinthians13Parenting.com, co-author of 3 parenting books, mom of four (plus one daughter-in-love) Contact Lori for your next event. She is also available for parent consulting and parent training courses.
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About the Author
Lori Wildenberg is a licensed parent and family educator, parent coach, and co-founder of 1Corinthians13 Parenting.com. She has written 6 books including Messy Journey: How Grace and Truth Offer the Prodigal a Way Home; The Messy Life of Parenting: Powerful and Practical Ways to Strengthen Family Connections; and her most recent book, Messy Hope: Help Your Child Overcome Anxiety, Depression, or Suicidal Ideation. Contact Lori for your next event or for parent consulting or parent training courses. Lori can also be found mentoring over at the MOMS Together Group on Facebook.