14 strategies parents need to know
Too often adults tell children what happened, what caused it to happen, how the child should feel about it, what the child should learn from it, and what the child should do about it. It is much more respectful and encouraging when we ask what happened, what the child thinks caused it, how the child feels about it, what the child has learned, what ideas the child has to solve the problem, or how the child can use what she has learned in the future. This is the true meaning of education, which comes from the Latin word educare, which means "to draw forth." Too often, adults try to "stuff in," instead of draw forth, and then wonder why children don't learn.
One way to get the child engaged is to ask questions that arouse their curiosity. A few typical curiosity questions are:
- What were you trying to accomplish?
- How do you feel about what happened?
- What did you learn from this?
- How can you use what you learned in the future?
- What ideas do you have for solutions now?
A Story from Jane: One of my favorite examples is the time my daughter shared with me her intention to get drunk at a party. I gulped and said, "Tell me more. Why are you thinking of doing that?" She said, "Lots of kids do it and it looks like they are having fun." I stifled my temptation to lecture and asked, "What do your friends say about you now, knowing you don't drink?" She thought about this and said, "They are always telling me how much they admire me and how proud they are of me." I continued, "What will they think after you get drunk?" I could see her think before she offered, "I'll bet they'll be disappointed." I followed with, "How do you think you'll feel about yourself." I could tell this question made her think a little deeper. She paused a little longer before saying, "I will probably feel like a loser." This was soon followed by, "You know, Mom, I don't need to get drunk. Thank you for taking the time to help me with this."
Asking the right questions about a sensitive issue can bring mother and daughter closer together. It is good to remember that a child's relationship with the parents can profoundly affect his or her decision-making patterns.