The Power of Modeling
Across the years, I’ve learned a whole lot about engaging kids (and people in general) from my momma. She’s great at asking questions and initiating conversation! Being an adult child and witnessing my mom in the role of grandma (or “G-Dog” as my 10-year-old niece likes to call her) is beyond sweet. My mom asks ALL the best questions and invites kids to participate and contribute; she creates such a powerful exchange.
Now, if you’ve been in my community for a while, you’ll probably remember that I LOVE open-ended questions, too. Open-ended questions are ones that cannot be answered with a yes or no. Specifically, they often begin with who, what, where, when, why, or how.
I value supporting parents in growing the resources and tools needed to have peaceful, connected communication with their children and teens.
I value asking children and teens questions that allow them to take up space, to think critically, and to make decisions about themselves and the world.
How Curiosity Questions Work
Asking curiosity questions to the children and teens in your life will not only increase their engagement (which brings confidence, critical thinking, emotional intelligence, and so much more along with it), but it will also give you, as the parent or caregiver, more room to breathe. And just like the domino effect, when you model how to ask questions, your child or teen will learn how to ask questions. As they go out into the world and interact, these questions can be pathways, too, for them to connect with peers and community members. This is a win-win-win-win situation.
You can use curiosity questions in a wide range of situations, from ones that feel super connected and peaceful to others that are tense and annoying.
Opportunities for Curiosity-Questions*:
- During a connected moment: If you and your teen are enjoying a moment, a conversation, or an activity together, you can draw their voice and reflection out by asking questions. For example, “What are you thinking about?,” or “What are you noticing?”
- Challenging behaviors: If your teen is engaging in a behavior that challenges or bothers you, begin with an observation statement: “I notice you are/did _________ (insert behavior here).” Then, follow this up with a curiosity question like, “What happened?” or “What were you trying to accomplish/”
- Unmet expectations: If your teen is not following through with an agreement or family expectation, you can offer reminders or prompts in the format of a question. For example, “What’s your plan for getting your homework done?” or “What are your ideas about getting the chores done?” or “What could you do to solve this problem?”
- Debriefing a tough day: After a difficult or challenging day, you can offer support to your teen by acknowledging their feelings. For example, “I hear that you are exhausted.” Then, you can ask, “Is there anything else?” As they share, you can even ask “Anything else” a few more times, offering loving attention and a supportive tone along the way.
- Solving a problem together: If your teen approaches you for help or advice, you can support encourage them by asking questions. First, affirm their challenge by stating something like, “I’m sorry to hear that you are feeling bummed about this.” Next, follow up with a question like “What do you imagine you can try next?” or “How would you like this situation to turn out?” Other questions include: “What kind of support do you need?,” “What have you already tried?” and “Who might be able to help you solve this?”
Putting Curiosity Questions into Practice
As you experiment with curiosity questions, be mindful of your mood and tone. If you don’t have the energy to ask a question and then practice deep, active listening, that’s okay, just save the questions for later. It’s also important to use only a few questions in each conversation. Tune in to how your teen is responding (body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice). Then, gauge your questioning based on the cues you are receiving.
Finally, please use the examples I share today as a starting point. As you practice curiosity questions, trust yourself. You’ll come up with tons of great curiosity questions along the way. Feel free to contact me to share the great questions you’ve found yourself asking or to seek support on implementing curiosity questions in your home and family.
*Note: I gathered question ideas from 1:1 work with teens, as well as Positive Discipline, and a wealth of other tools I utilize in my practice.