Our brains love questions. It’s the nature of the mind.
Yet, we often fail to realize how powerful these questions can be and how much they can consume our lives. For both good and bad.
But let’s assume we all want more love, more joy, and more beautiful time with our family. Given that, it’s essential then to notice how we use (or abuse) questions to direct attention and energy. Without really noticing, we can be creating one outcome that is quite negative, while having the intention of something very different.
What do I mean by wasted questions? These are questions that serve no value. They do not help you. They do not support your child. They do not bring about a better understanding. They do not change behavior. They serve to waste time and direct attention toward portions of life outside of our control. Thus, they produce negative feeling states, with no useful change in behavior. Here are a few examples:
- “Why are you doing that?”
- “Didn’t I ask you to stop?”
- “What’s wrong with you?”
- “Why can’t you listen to me?”
- “Is there a problem with your hearing?”
- “Why did you take that from your brother?”
- “Why are you still up?”
- “What are you doing?”
For many of you, you might notice that you’ve asked these questions or similar questions quite frequently. It’s not that there is ever a meaningful answer. It’s not that the answer makes a difference. Thus, I consider these to be “wasted questions.”
They do not serve you, and they do not help your children. They waste time! But they do so at the expense of something vital. And that is that it tricks your brain into thinking that you might be doing something useful when you are doing something hurtful. If your kids aren’t listening, you need a better plan. If they keep making the same mistakes over and over, you need a better plan. If they never get to bed on time, you need a better plan.
The wasted questions waste your time and keep you, and your child likely focused on answers that will not help. You cannot discover or initiate an effective parenting plan while doing this. There are parenting strategies that work. You can change your child’s habits, get them to listen, and go to bed on time, and get siblings to get along, and get through homework and responsibilities without a battle. This is all workable. But to do so, you need a better plan and to get rid of the wasted questions.
Why Is This The Misery Formula?
Whenever we ask a question, our brains begin to wait for an answer. It’s like turning on a computer and putting in a question for Google to answer. Just like Google goes to work to search for an answer, so does your brain! As well as your child’s brain.
The problem is that there is no right answer to the question (typically). Perhaps there’s a shrug, or a pointed finger, or maybe an excuse. Of course, it’s the same excuse. It’s the same shrug. It’s the same finger-pointing.
And what happens next? You get upset! You get angry! You get frustrated! And your child experiences much of the same.
You can see where this is taking us. Wasted questions lead our brains down a path into a black hole of misery. We think we’re asking a question that might bring a real answer, but it doesn’t. It just brings misery.
So the bottom line is simple: Avoid wasted questions and wasted time, and you avoid the misery as well. Of course, you might have to go looking for a better parenting plan. And you might find that everyone seems to feel a bit better, just because attention is not focused on the misery path.
Also, if you abandon the misery formula, you may become much more interested in ‘action’ vs. words, and this will inevitably lead to better results.