Asking Great Questions (Pt 2)
We’ve had kids at our youth ranch that come from homes that looked perfect. Things were clean, the kids were polite and well-mannered, and grades were excellent. They attended church and participated with a level of poise and maturity others admired. However, the hearts and spirit of the children were crushed by a domineering father and fearful mother. In this case they had all the appearance of success but the children were hopeless and wanted to die.
As a parent, we know that success depends on being able to balance things like flexibility and resolve that comes with conviction. We want creative kids but we also want kids who can spell correctly (in my case I lean toward creative spelling). So success really isn’t so much about mastery, but more about appropriately engaging with life’s demands and relationships.
Identifying and pursuing success as a parent and family is difficult and that is precisely why we need to ask great questions rather than fixate on being the expert and providing answers.
Imagine going to a restaurant and never being asked what you want to eat. Instead, the knowledgeable waiter guesses what you’d like and brings you food. This could be great for indecisive people who happen to enjoy the same food as the waiter, but most likely you’d get a meal that doesn’t quite meet your needs.
In a similar way, as a parent we assume we are on the same page as our spouse and kids and so we end up making decisions for their own good rather than taking the time to ask. While we might make good decisions, we won’t be making great decisions – the kind that truly satisfy.
I’d suggest sitting down with your spouse and using the several of the following questions to get you focused on understanding success. Don’t be stuck with this list but spend time not only asking questions but following up the questions with others to make sure you understand not only the rational side but the emotional side as well.
- Have your dreams for our kids changed as they’ve gotten older?
- What amazes you about our each of our kids?
- What do you wish we could do more of in our family?
- What do you admire in our family?
- Why do you think God put our different personalities together?
- What are you going to miss when the kids are no longer home?
- What do you want our kids to remember about our relationship?
- What things do you see me doing as a parent that you’d like to see more of?
One important warning. Many people miss out on having significant conversations because they think it requires a “magical” time without distractions and other stress. Yes, we are fried at times as parents but even a few minutes are enough to ask a simple question. If you are at the park and your kids are playing, why not spend that time in thoughtful conversation. It may seem uncomfortable but just leap in and ask a great question.
I also encourage you at ask your kids in an age appropriate way so you can understand what they consider family and parent success. Ask a question or two during a meal, while driving together in the car, or after worship. It doesn’t take long but making it normal to ask questions and learn during regular life is a really important thing for them to learn.
Here are a few questions that may help you get going:
- What are some things our family does well that make you feel like we are close?
- What makes our family different from other families?
- What do you wish we did that your friends’ families do?
- What do TV families do that you wish our family did?
- What things make you feel safe in our family?
- What things would you like me as your dad/mom to do more of with you?
- What things would you like me as your dad/mom to do less with you?
- What do you think dad/mom want you to be like when you are a grown-up?
- What do you think we are most proud of you for?
- When is making a mistake okay?
There are so many great questions out there but don’t get stuck on asking the perfect question; instead get used to asking questions, listening to words, body language, silence, and doing your best to let them know you are interested. Ask for clarity, don’t be overly serious, and realize that it will take some time for your child to feel comfortable with this process.
In the next blog entry we are going to look at asking great questions to help your family survive. It is about identifying threats and where we are off-course. Yet it is hard to know you are off course until you take the time to really do this first step of identifying success.
Question: What are some great questions that you’ve asked or been asked that helped you focus on success?