In order to connect with our kids, we need to be sure we’re asking great questions. It’s easy for us to get frustrated when we communicate with our kids, because they give us one-word answers or just grunt. One of the worst questions we can ask our kids is, “How was your day?” This is a weak question, for a few reasons.
First, it’s way too easy for them to dismiss the question by simply saying “fine”. That’s the typical answer. Occasionally, we might get more if something notable happened at school or church. However, if we don’t take a genuine interest in their answer, they are likely to revert back to “fine”.
Second, when we ask the “How was your day?” question it can seem hollow. Do you really want to know how their day was or are you simply asking because it’s part of your routine? I have fallen into this trap many times. I have to fight against it.
I would ask my kids as we sat down for dinner, “How was your day?”, because I was hungry and ready to eat. I was not really looking for stimulating conversation. I just wanted to stimulate my stomach. Thankfully (through great experience!), I have learned some better techniques! I have learned to ask better questions. You can not only learn to communicate better with your kids, you can learn to be a godly dad.
Numbers can help.
For example, instead of saying “How was your day?”, you might say, “Tell me the top three things that happened today.” Or you could say, “Tell me five fun things you did today.” These types of questions and statements trigger a different part of your children’s brains. Numbers questions require thought. Your kids need to think about their day and process their answer.
Be prepared. As they answer these questions, if you’re actively listening, you can always ask solid follow-up questions. This shows you are paying attention and invested in them. How about another technique I've picked up over the years.
Play the extremes.
You can ask, “What was the best and worst thing you saw today?” It doesn’t have to be things they did directly. It could be the best and worst thing they ate that day or game they played or conversation they had. When you play the extremes, you get the bonus of hearing what they value.
I was talking with my oldest daughter about the best thing she did that day, and her response was “recess and lunch”. She’s my girl! I followed that up with, “What was the worst thing you did today?” She answered (again affirming her lineage) by saying, “Math”. I was able to follow-up both of these responses and learn that at recess there had been a great new game invented which made no sense to me. She tried thoroughly (in vain) to explain the rules to me.
I also learned she did not enjoy math class, because they started fractions. Seriously, if you enjoy math, especially fractions, God has definitely wired you special. Also, you can chase the “top three best or worst” questions with a simple follow-up like, “Why was that on your list?” It gets them to elaborate, and as they do, you learn a lot about what they value (or don’t). You do this and you'll connect with your child like never before.
Ask scenario questions.
I sometimes do this with arbitrary things that have nothing to do with how their day went. I might pose a scenario like, “If you could only eat three foods for the rest of your life, what would they be and why?” Or I might say, “If you were a furry woodland creature what would you be and why?”
I sometimes get memory-making answers from my kids. These types of questions almost always start longer conversations. It gets them to think outside the box, which usually leads to them asking me similar questions or other questions that are not even remotely related to what we were talking about. Just because we got a conversation rolling, they felt the freedom to ask something that maybe they had been pondering a while.
I was talking with my oldest son one day and I asked him if he could have any super power, what it would be. As we both talked about what our favorite super powers, we also discussed why we chose those specific ones. We both changed our answers about ten times during the conversation and added multiple powers.
This led to him asking me some pretty deep questions about who God is and how powerful He is. We had a great conversation that blew his mind about God being in all places at all times. Talk about a super power! Connecting with your child like never before means asking good questions that can help our kids open up about what’s going on in their world.
It tells them we care about them and we want to dive into what they’re experiencing. It tells them we understand them, or at least, we’re trying to. Ask questions that will lead to conversations they will remember for the rest of their lives. Be consistent. This is not a one-time deal.
Question: What’s one type of questioning you think would get your child to open up? How can you try that type of question out with your child tonight? Tell us how it goes in the comments section below, tweet us @manhoodjourney or you can always email.
Will is a doctoral student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary studying leadership. He is the associate pastor of students and men’s ministry at Memorial Baptist Church in Baytown, TX. Married to Lucinda for 14 years, they have four wonderful kids. Learn more about Will here. Grab his Field Guide Common Ground.
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