Have you ever stopped to ask yourself (pun intended) how many questions kids are asked every day? How was your day? Why did you do that to your sister? What made you think that was okay? What did you do at school? Why are you upset? How many times do I have to ask you to clean your room?
The interesting fact about kids is that they live in their hearts. They are emotional, here and now beings, who really just “feel” their way through childhood. Questions, however, put kids in their minds where they are really uncomfortable and confused. Being asked to answer questions actually puts them into an internal battle, which typically results in them shutting down or giving one word answers.
In the parent training that I offer, one of the rules of thumb is, “If you know enough to ask a question, you know enough to make a statement.” This is profound! For all of the questions that we ask our children, we are capable of turning them into accurate statements instead. Here is how it works:
“Did that scare you?!” immediately becomes, “That scared you!”
“Why are you crying?” transforms into, “You are sad that you couldn’t stay.”
“What happened at school?” adjusts to, “Tell me something that was funny at school.”
“How many times do I have to ask you…” morphs into, “I have already asked you to…”
Why Statements Are Helpful
Statements allow kids to process the world around them in the way that makes the most sense to them – with their emotions. They remain in their feelings and can still communicate verbally, without having to switch to a cognitive process that feels foreign to them.
Statements also validate kids and help them to feel heard. Asking them if something made them upset when they are clearly upset communicates that you don’t “get them.” They do not believe that their emotions were understood. They also resent being expected to think about what they are experiencing, rather than just experiencing it.
Finally, statements model effective and healthy communication. Imagine your spouse, boss, or friend says, “You are really happy about finishing your project!” and they are right on track. You affirm that you are, indeed, really happy about it. Now imagine the same scenario where you are asked, “What are you feeling now that you’ve completed your project?” You may throw out a few responses, like proud or relieved, but the entire emotion is removed because you had to THINK about it.
Now that you are aware of how kids need more statements and less questions, you will begin catching yourself mid-question and wonder how to recover from the interrogation addiction! In that moment, simply reword it to a statement. A go-to phrase that helps is, “I wonder…”
I wonder what you want to do next.
I wonder what made you think about that.
I wonder if you would like carrots for snack.
Stay tuned for a part two of sorts, wherein I spin this and point out why we also need to stop answering our kids’ questions! But, for now, practice rephrasing your questions into statements based on what they are expressing, what you know about them, and what emotions they are feeling in the moment. You will be well on your way to breaking the question habit, and helping your children to feel heard and understood!