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Asking Great Questions (Pt. 4)

by ChuckFuel Gauge Illustration

“Are we there yet?”  Every parent hates that question.  I have a feeling that some of you may be asking the same thing about this series on Asking Great Questions.

So far we’ve look at asking questions that help us succeed and survive, and in this final installment we are going to focus on sustaining.

I was a bit confused by Ken Coleman’s choice of “sustaining” as this third focus.  I assumed a natural result of success and survival was sustaining.  However, as humans we need fuel.  One of the hardest things to get right during the 12-14 hours of racing an Ironman triathlon is eating/fueling properly.  Eat too much and I can’t run, eat too little and I run out of energy.  In order for me to finish, I need to be focused during the whole race on fueling properly.

So, what fuels your family?  What fuels you to want to be together rather than apart?  What holds your family to your goals?

There were several very difficult years in my marriage in which Kelly and I were both working to improve our marriage but it wasn’t easy.  We had a great history together and strong hopes and plans for the future but keeping going daily was really tough.  At the low point our fuel was our commitment to one another and to God. Over time, we discovered, developed, and deepened the things that bonded us together and fueled us.  We focused on identifying doing more things that pulled us together and less things that pulled us apart.  Not easy, but I praise God that we made it through those tough times.

Do you know what fuels your marriage?

One of the things I love about the Project Patch Family Experience is that families are led through experiences and discussions which help the family identify things that they value and would like to do more of.  I was surprised the first time I heard a young boy say that he’d rather go Project Patch than summer camp.  Even though they were hard and awkward, he loved doing things that brought their family together and made them more secure.  Since that time, so many other skeptical kids have shared how good it felt to be listened to, talking about real things, and seeing their parents trying.

Family vacations and celebrations are a lot of fun and create long term memories, but most kids are fueled by the small and ordinary things rather than occasional huge things.  Don’t assume that you know what makes your kids want to be around you more than their friends.  They may not respond to a blunt question but keep trying and before you know it you will stumble on a great question which pierces the fog and gets at the heart of what your child wants from family.

Here are a couple ideas when talking to your kids:

  • Have you noticed that when I don’t eat that I get a bit crabby?  There are days that our family just seems crabby and distant; why do you think that happens?
  • What are some little things that I could do that would make Mom’s/Dad’s life easier?  Are there any little things that I could do for the whole family?
  • What do you wish our family did more of?

A great question is worthless unless it is asked.  It isn’t easy and I’ve found that I have more strikeouts than hits.  Yet I’ve found some great insight and growth in those times in which I’ve heard an unexpected response and realized that my wife or little girl shared a piece of their heart with me that I would never have known unless I took the time to ask, and then listen for her heart.