Are you tired of having to wonder what is going on in your child’s head? Tired of “Nothing” or “I don’t know” when you ask them what happened at school or how they feel about something?
With children, it’s not about the question you ask, but rather HOW you ask it. This is something that I come across in my family coaching work over and over. If you want a short direct answer to a question, ask, “Do you want A or B?”. If you want to promote discussion with your child, however, the question needs to be more open-ended.
Jennifer Cafelle (2021), early education professional, outlines five key types of questions to ask children to get them talking in her article, 50+ Questions to Ask Your Kids to Get Them Talking. Here’s a closer look at these five types of questions, and how you can use them to promote discussion with your own children.
5 Types of Questions to Get Kids Talking
What is your favorite?
Get your kiddo talking about his or her favorite things. Ask, “Why do you like —- so much?” The trick here is to focus on extending beyond just a one-word answer. If you ask your child, “What is your favorite time of year?” and he or she answers, “Summer,” follow with, “What do you enjoy doing in the summer?”
If you could…
If you could…Teachers utilize this type of question in writing prompts all the time. “If you could have any superpower, what would it be and why?”
These questions can give you great clues as to how your child is feeling about him or herself. Asking, “When was the last time you smiled?” or “What is your favorite thing about yourself?” can give major mental health and wellness clues for parents to tune in to.
Would you rather?
Would you rather? “Would you rather play inside or outside?” “Would you rather watch the movie or read the book?” Questions like these offer insight into your child’s preferences, which can in turn make it easier to bond with him or her.
Just for fun...
If you were the teacher (or president), what rules would you make?” These questions are fun for children to answer, but they can also reveal priorities for your children. When these priorities are revealed, you as a parent can either affirm or redirect into a more positive direction.
5 Books to Promote Powerful Family Discussions
In addition to questioning strategies, there are a wealth of children’s books that can promote some powerful family discussions. Some examples are:
Chalk by Bill Thomson
In this story, sidewalk chalk drawings come to life. Try asking your child what he or she would draw that could come to life.
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
Here, a boy goes on a journey into an imaginary world when he is angry with his parents for punishing him. Eventually, he grows tired on his journey, and he returns home, where he is welcomed with open arms and unconditional love by his family. This one can entice conversations of far away lands your child may want to visit, or, on a simpler note, how he or she feels when being punished and ways to reconnect after.
Corduroy by Don Freeman
In this tale, a stuffed bear comes to life. The story centers around a button that is missing on his overalls. The overall theme of the story lies in self-acceptance, which begs the question, “If you could change anything about yourself, what would it be and why?” Also, “What is your favorite thing about yourself?”
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst
Your children will laugh at Alexander’s misfortunes, and probably relate to a day they have experienced that did not go their way. This opens the floor for discussion, “How can we handle it when we are disappointed because things do not go our way?”
How Full is Your Bucket? By Tom Rath and Mary Reckmeyer
This book is useful for discussing ways to be kind and how it affects others when we are not kind. It could be used to facilitate a discussion on how to show kindness to others.
The best piece of advice I can offer is that conversation will flow easier when there are opportunities built-in for it throughout the day. Though initial efforts may feel clunky, the more you have authentic prolonged conversations with your child, the easier it will become, and the stronger your bond will be.
Cafelle, J. (2021). 50 Questions to Ask Your Kids to Get Them Talking. Retrieved from https://www.familyeducation.com/family-life/50-questions-to-ask-your-kids-to-get-them-talking
About the Author: Brandy Browne
Brandy Browne is an early childhood educator in the United States, as well as a family coach and blogger for UnStuck (www.unstucks.com), her family coaching service aimed at helping families develop positive habits and breaking the cycle of generational trauma and poverty.
Her education is in early and elementary education, and she also has a masters degree in parenting and child/adolescent development. Brandy is a wife to her high school sweetheart of fifteen years, and together they share three children, aged ten, seven, and five. In her free time, she enjoys reading, gardening, writing, and distance running.