This week I delivered a Better Parents Ask Better Questions seminar to a lovely group of people. The message about asking Better Questions was very well received and there were a number of people that came to me afterwards to thank me and also ask some personal questions.
One lady asked for advice because she was mindful that she would like to ask her 4 year old son more questions but was finding that, in her words, he was lazy and couldn’t be bothered to answer her questions. During the seminar we had talked about the fact that some kids will be reluctant to answer your questions, and depending upon their age could be for any one of the following reasons:
- They just can’t be bothered or are lazy
- They don’t want you to know the answer!
- They are worried about getting the answer wrong
- They really don’t know an answer
- They need more time to answer
- The question was too much for them to think about
- You asked at the wrong time
- They have gotten used to you telling them what to do so expect you to give them the answer
- They are worried about taking responsibility
I am sure that there are other reasons you can think of but I generally find that this list covers most situations. So during my discussion with the lady it was clear that she had assumed that her son was being lazy and had given up trying to ask questions. Of course I challenged her to not give up because, even if it was him being lazy, it wasn’t a good pattern to get into that she stopped questioning because of this.
So patience becomes a virtue when you want to become a Better Questioner and my advice is always if at first you don’t succeed try, try again! It is important that you ask yourself a Better Question in these situations and think about what you can do differently that will get you a different result. In this case it transpired that the lady had been asking her son what he had done at kinder that day and as we talked we agreed that this question was too expansive for her son to think about and that a question with a narrower focus might work better. So she left the seminar to try the question “What was your favourite thing that you did at kinder today?” She felt good about this question because she realised that it would be easier for her son to find an answer as he only had to think about one aspect of his day rather than his whole day. Much easier for a four year old to do!
So my advice to you as the Better Questioner is to not be put off when faced with reluctance to your question. Be patient and think about what the issue might be as to why they aren’t willing to provide an answer and then think about an alternative approach that will get you a different result. I do know that there isn’t a magic wand when it comes to getting all kids on board with feeling comfortable with taking a more questioning approach but find that there is a way to make it work in most instances if you are prepared to be patient and persistent!