5 Great Questions You Should Ask Your Kids

Parents tell – it’s what they do. That is until they stop doing it.

For so many of us, we think our job as parents is to tell our kids how to be in life – what to believe, what to do, how to live and on and on. For some reason we think we have our kids’ answers in how they should show up to their world.

The only person who has a perspective about what makes a great, happy, successful and responsible life is ourselves – me for me, you for you, your kids for your kids. Our greatest job as a parent is to help our kids figure this out so that when they decide to move past high school, they have sorted this out and have some clarity on how to meet their world and be happy, successful and responsible in it.

Telling Is Not Asking

If you tell, tell, tell – you don’t help your child, then teen, then young adult – learn how to process, think through the options and choose wisely for who they are. If instead, you ask, ask, ask, you create the environment for your kids to think about and share their thoughts, talents, passions and interests. You both become more aware of what is different, unique and amazing about each of your kids. They gather this information as they sort through their answers to your questions.

Your kids need this information to identify where in today’s world they fit – what career, job, focus and work needs what they do and love best. You need this information in order to know how to help each kid develop into his/her greatest self and find his/her unique way.

The starting point to helping our kids tune in to who they are is to get good at asking more than telling (I like to think that parents tell and coaches ask – so become more like a coach). Here are 5 great (coaching) questions to help get your kids to talk to you, and in the process, help them start to think about themselves and through the events of their lives to discover and develop the clarity to find out who they are and what they want to do in life.

5 Great Questions To Ask Your Kids

  1. What are 3 things people applaud you for?
  2. What was the last thing that didn’t work out the way you wanted – what could you have done instead?
  3. I see that you are struggling with this – what is something that has worked in a previous situation like this that could help you out now? Or, what’s another way to look at this?
  4. If you could spend part (all) of today doing what you love, what would you do?
  5. What do you think is the greatest or most amazing thing about you? How did you discover it and how do you feel knowing this?

You can see that there are thousands of other questions that are in line with these information-gathering and thought-provoking questions. The idea is to get them thinking and talking. So much less of this happens if you come at them with only directions and instructions – you do all their thinking for them.

As our kids age, they need to take their unique and amazing brains out for a spin. Asking questions is the greatest way for them to discover what great abilities they came packaged with (they didn’t get an owner’s manual so you have to help them discover this by helping them see it). The more you ask, the more they think. The more they think, the more information they discover about who they are and what in today’s world fits them. If you do their thinking for them, when it is their turn to show up to the world, they will not know how to make good decisions to be happy, successful and responsible in life.


The One Question That Will Improve Your Life

There is one question you can ask, in any situation, that can will improve your life. It can help you stand out in the workplace, with customers, with your employees, with your managers. It can help you stand out in school, with your friends, in class and on a project. It can help you stand out in your relationship at home, with family, with friends and with people you don’t know. Ask this question and everything changes.

What is the question?

Hold on, I’ll share it in a minute.

Let’s first understand why this question works.

Stop and notice for a moment each of the following situations:

  • Your workplace
  • Your school
  • Your family
  • Your relationships

How pleased are you with each? If I asked you to rate each on a scale of 1 – 10, where 1 means it is terrible and 10 means it is off the charts, what would you rate each? Most people rate all of these between a 4 and a 6. What kind of relationships, family, school and workplace do you have with a rating of 4, 5 or 6 out of ten? Good but not great?

The reason for this is that most of us never have learned to ask this one power question – the question that changes everything. The result is we allow life to go on as it is, just accepting what comes. But this question gives you the power to change anything. Ready for the question?

Always ask this

“What could make this better?” That’s it. Or use this one modification, “What could I do to make this better?”

See, most of us don’t look at our work and lives and ask what could make it better. We take it as it comes and then get disappointed. We forget that we own our response. We want to blame the world for anything that isn’t right when we actually have the power to change it by learning to ask this question.

So, walk into any business. Walk in to any class at school. Look at any homework assignment. Look at any meal. Look at the relationship with your brother, father, sister, mother, neighbor, teacher, boss, employees. Look at any garden. Look at any vacation. Look at any room in the house. Ask the question: what could make this better? (or, What could I do to make this better?).

This question forces you and your kids – to take responsibility for the quality of your work and life. It doesn’t mean that any of the situations or events you assess aren’t good – you have just developed the habit of always considering what could make them better. This constant focus on small improvements over time leads to significant improvements. This is how great things are developed – they come from constantly asking the question, “what could make this better?”

Ask this question everywhere

To improve things in the workplace, be the employee who always asks, “what could make this (service, operations, work environment, benefits, culture, training, etc) better?” – then come up with some suggestions.

To improve things at school, be the student who always asks, “what could make this (homework, class, reading, project, sports team, activity, club, etc) better?” – then come up with some suggestions.

To improve things in your relationships, be the one who always asks, “what could make this (conversation, time with each other, intimacy, friendship, etc) better?” – then come up with some suggestions.

You improve things when you take ownership of improving everything you encounter. All it takes is a simple change in awareness –a new habit – of always asking the question, “what could make this better?” (or, “what could I do to make this better?”). Imagine your family, workplace, school, relationships, life and our world if we all asked this question more often.

Use This One Word To Get Your Kids to Talk To You

Remember when our kids were younger and they did nothing but ask questions. They wore us out with the word “why.” They did it to get answers. It is now time to use the same tactic to get answers from them.

Our Kids Seem to Tune Us Out

As a family and life coach, many parents share with me that they can’t seem to talk with their kids. Their kids tune them out in favor of tuning in to their technology and the distractions of the Internet. The relationship suffers. So, like most parents, they get aggravated and do more telling and yelling to get their kids attention. Things don’t improve.

Think back to that power question these same kids used to always ask. They had it right – they needed to know and we had the answers. Now, they have information and we need answers. How else will we be able to guide, support and coach these same kids into discovering, developing and living what is best in them?

The question, “why” is your friend. It is the glue that will hold you and your kids together in a conversation. It will help you understand what they are thinking. It will teach them to have a perspective and own their decisions. “Why” is like gold to a parent.

How To Get Your Kids To Talk

  1. Notice how much you tell instead of ask. Simply becoming aware (stop and notice) that you are telling more than asking creates the possibility of changing it. You can’t change what you don’t know.
  2. Ask, don’t tell. For the next day, short of anything related to safety or something urgent, force yourself to ask a question (and not tell). Deliver a great and meaningful question (example: “What did you like about school today?”), then, whatever their response, launch into your power question “why.”  For nearly everything you hear from your kids, simply ask “why.” Don’t overdo it, but you can see how this can help you get them to talk and be more involved.
  3. Be patient and listen for and to the answer. You have wisely used the ‘why’ question to get more information and perspectives from your kids. What you hear is just information. You can’t decide how to support and guide this fellow human unless you know what they are thinking. Look at them (no multi-tasking). Touch their shoulder, hair or arm. Listen impartially – you will shut off the supply of information if you react to everything they say. Talk to them, not at them. Show that you are tuned in and that they are the most important thing going on in this moment. Not only will you acknowledge them more profoundly, but you will be present to the information they are sharing. You need this information. It will help you decide what to ask, say or do next.

Who would have thought that we would be able to use that aggravating little question we heard morning, noon and night when our kids were discovering their world, with those same kids. Get good at asking questions, particularly “why.” Get good at listening and caring about the responses. Expand your conversations to help them see that you are just gathering information about their world, so you can help them show up as their best and greatest self. (BTW, asking questions, particularly ‘why,’ works great with employees, friends and everyone else.)