Questions foster the thinking


The Thinking Man sculpture at Musée Rodin in Paris

The Thinking Man sculpture at Musée Rodin in Paris (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Do you want to make your child think instead of keeping you doing all of the thinking? Are you tired to always tell your children what to do and how?

I’ve already shared some wisdom from the Love and Logic Expert Dr. Charles Fay in some of my posts. His weekly advice with a great list of useful questions we can ask our children just came in handy to me today.

Questions create thinking, we all know that. When we’re having one of those days telling constantly our children to stop doing something, to listen or to  helping etc. we’re trapped in a decision taking role and end up doing all the thinking.

For example, if we don’t agree with the behaviour of our kids, instead of reprimanding them, asking questions like “Are you sure that’s a good idea?” or “Can you think about a better way to do ….?” really helps lot and “and it keeps the monkey off of our backs” (most of the time).

“Human brain seeks closure. When we use plenty of questions, children’s brains are so busy searching for closure that they have less energy left over for power-struggles.”

It really works. Instead of telling our kids what to do, when and why, we’re much better off by asking them questions. When our children ask us to help them find a solution, we’re often tempted to figure out one for them, but it’s really not a sign of weakness if we reply with “I don’t know. What do you think?”. Doing so, we’re helping them to become confident, because we give them the message that we consider them able to do the thinking (and that we’re not omniscient).

If we have the impression that our children are making poor choices, we sometimes can feel upset and would like to give them a better advice, tell them how to do things better. Instead, a question like “Are you sure that’s the best idea?” is much less judgemental and puts them in the position to redo their thinking. Also a “How do you think that’s going to work out for you?” will give them a hint to think about the consequences.

Some more questions that will capture their attention and take away the tension of a difficult situatoin are: “Would you like to hear what some other kids have tried?” (and we have to come up with some really convincing anecdotes!) and “Do you think that’s going to work out well or ________?”.

If they are at a dead end, by asking “What do you think you are going to do?” in a compassionate way will signalize that we confide in them that they’ll find a solution by themselves.

Once our children have figured out a few ways to solve their problem but are still struggling to find the right one, asking “Which one of these is the best solution to your problem?” or, in a very specific context “Do you have enough money to pay for any possible damage?” can be appropriate.

And if you really don’t agree with their solution, a “Is that a wise decision?” would make it clear for them to reconsider their decision.

Please share the experiences you made by asking your children instead of doing the thinking for them.

It would be great to add some more great questions to this list!

Here are some of your additional questions:

Insanityofmotherhood:

One of the questions I ask the boys when they are off track on something they need to do is, “What should you be doing right now?” I say this instead of my usual nagging and it really works.

Like Misirlou suggests:

It’s also important to let your children make mistakes and sometimes fail—then ask, “How could you have done that differently?” or “What can you do differently next time?”

9 responses to “Questions foster the thinking

  1. One of the questions I ask the boys when they are off track on something they need to do is, “What should you be doing right now?” I say this instead of my usual nagging and it really works. Nice blog post, Ute.

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    • Thanks Nate, thanks for this hint! It’s really good to make them realize that they have to do the thinking about what they do, when etc. Sometimes I feel like a puppetmaster and then, when I happen to remember to ask questions, it feels like the strings just disappear ;-)

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  2. This is exactly what my mum did with us. It turned really well, specially for us during the teenage period when we question her all the time ;)…LOL.. Only joking.

    I really ejoyed this post :)

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    • Ha, madrexilio, when our children are teenagers, this questioning gets to another level. I’m having this with my son (he’s 10) and the questions he asks are already quite challenging sometimes. But I really prefer the questioning than being the one who does the thinking for 4 (sometimes 5…) persons.

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  3. It’s also important to let your children make mistakes and sometimes fail—then ask, “How could you have done that differently?” or “What can you do differently next time?”

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    • Thank you, Misirlou, that’s a very important one! It’s so important for our children to learn how to fail and how to go on afterwards! You’re perfectly right. – I’ll add it into the text ;-)

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  4. Good advice. I’ll try this during the next power struggle with my pre-teen daughters!

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    • I’m glad you liked. What I find fascinating in this is that it really takes the pressure away from us parents. We’re constantly asked to take decisions and are so used to do it everywhere and with everyone, that we don’t realize that our children can do it by themselves. Especially during power struggles we get into the defense mode and feel that we do also have to find a solution, but actually we don’t ;-) Unless it’s something really serious and too difficult for our kids to handle, they usually have all the tools to help themselves and we can give them a hint by asking them questions. – Good luck and let me know how it went, and which questions I could add to the list.

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