Previously we discussed how questions arise in our minds, and we typically do not choose the questions. Yet, these questions directly and control our attention, the thoughts that follow, and the consequential emotions!
These questions cannot be taken lightly if we want to direct our lives on a positive trajectory. Why? Because each question typically compels a truckload of possible answers. And if the question is negatively biased (and it often is!), the answers tend to take us to a dark place. Here is a simple example frustrated parents might ask a child:
Why can’t you just pay attention? What is wrong with you? (Terrible question!)
Possible answers child brain generates:
- I’m dumb…stupid
- Something is wrong with me
- I’m a bad kid
- I don’t care. I just don’t care.
- I have a problem.
- I don’t get it
- I don’t know. Why try if you can’t get it?
- I’m not as good as my sister
- I don’t know what my problem is
- It’s my fault
- I’m confused
- And the list goes on and on and on….
You can see that the negatively biased question likely takes the child’s brain down this destructive path. How is that brain find something positive? The answers tend to create more judgment and pain for the child, churning up apathy and self-deprecation.
So, if we give them questions that contain assumptions about negative thoughts, actions, and consequences, it’s as if we are programming them for failure. It’s as if we are programming them to feel lousy about themselves. So, let’s stop this now and move in another direction.
Using Questions to Empower Your Children
It is likely clear to you that questions have a powerful impact. Before discussing specific examples, you must understand this idea: The power of a good question comes from what we assume before asking the question.
Thus, let’s assume you want your child to learn efficiently and feel good about learning. From this, self-confidence can develop and other positive feelings.
To venture down this path, you would not want to ask simple dichotomous questions that your child can grunt a ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ An example of what NOT to ask is, ‘Did you learn anything today? Did you have fun today?” These lead to one-word answers.
Instead, ask questions like: “What did you learn in math today?” Or “What skills did you improve on today at your soccer practice?” Or “What did you learn from the story you read today?”
The magic is in the presupposition or assumption behind the question.
Presuppose the experience you want your child to have, and then ask about that experience. In this way, you direct what they focus on, and you direct that search engine in their brains. Here are a few examples of how to use questions to influence what kids focus on.
- Now, how easy was that?
- How might you make someone happy today?
- How did your effort and hard work pay off in getting you that “A+”?
- What could you easily do tomorrow to say, “I’m sorry” to your friend?
- What did you learn today in math that you might use in your future?
- What could you enjoy about the school trip today?
- In what ways are you fortunate and blessed?
- Why are you such a great kid?
- What wonderful things happened today that you didn’t notice yet?
- How could you enjoy your day even more by noticing more of the good stuff?
There are many ways to use questions to help direct any aspect of their experience. You can use questions to help direct their decisions and their actions.
You don’t ask, “Could you help your Mom today?” You ask, “What will you do today to help your Mom?” Notice the difference seems subtle. But it is enormous! Here are a few more examples of using questions to get positive momentum in your home.
- How easily could you solve that problem?
- When will you have finished mowing the lawn?
- How quickly can you get the dishwasher unloaded?
- How happy will you be about getting to read with your grandmother tonight?
- How quickly can you pick up your room before we go?
- In what ways can you find something interesting about your new classmates?
- What could you do today to make someone smile?
- How could you show your mom that you love her?
- When will you begin that project today?
- How many times will you practice your piece for recital?
- Where will you put your toys while you clean your room?
These questions will not shift significant behavioral problems around on their own. However, they are one powerful set of tools to have in your toolbox. Learn to use them well.