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It's your thoughts that count - in parenthood

At one of my workshops, we practised asking powerful questions and came to understand why this is such an important communication tool. Powerful questions are, almost always, open questions - questions that begin with 'what', 'what if', 'how', 'when', 'where', 'who' and 'which'? They can also begin with 'why' but 'why' is usually a punishing question in the hands of adults - 'why did you do that?' or 'why didn't you do that?' In the hands of young children like this one, it is, of course, the very best question!

When the workshop was over, one of the participants came to ask me what sorts of questions he could ask his children, who at 9 and 11 were becoming monosyllabic in their replies! Many of us have experienced this from time to time, haven't we?

I've thought about this before. Closed questions like, 'did you have a good day?' require little effort to answer and a grunt will do just fine. But a grunt is hardly likely to improve our children's vocabulary and it doesn't exactly keep us in touch with what's going on in their lives.

So I suggested to this father that he consider asking only open questions, in a slightly slow, very quiet and subtle tone of voice and with an air of curiosity. Something like this ...

'I was w-o-n-d-e-r-i-n-g today ..... how your school compares with my old school. For example, what was the best thing that happened to you today?' or 'how many new things do you reckon you learned today' or 'if you were the teacher, how would you teach you and your friends?' or 'when do you like being in the classroom and when do you prefer to be outside?' or 'which subject do you look forward to most?' or ....

It's not easy for a child to grunt a reply to any of these questions. And sometimes a real dialogue may follow.

It's your thoughts that count - in parenthood

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