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Communication 102: Asking Better Questions

“Use your words, please.” It was a request I hadn’t made since my teenager was a toddler, but I found it oddly appropriate in that circumstance. Maybe you’ve been there too - you are trying to find out what’s happening in your teen’s world and you find yourself fortunate to get one word answers. Mostly you’re just getting grunts and groans and no information that is in any way helpful.

Sometimes this happens because my child needs to be reminded how to appropriately communicate. But I’ve found, more often than not, it’s because I’m not asking the right questions. Last week we talked about listening to our kids and I practically heard you screaming at me, “How can I listen when he won’t talk to me?” Before we dive into asking better questions though, if you don’t have the foundation of a good relationship with your child, go back to the blog from Dec. 6. You can read it here.

Let’s assume you do have a good relationship with your child, or you thought you did, and suddenly you feel they are pushing you out. One word answers or grunts, hiding in their room, using air pods as a privacy fence, all communicate they don’t want to communicate. But all behavior is communication, and what your child may really be communicating is, “Our relationship is changing and I don’t know how to communicate with you anymore so it’s easier not to.” This is our cue to ask better questions when we have the opportunity.

Here are your steps towards flourishing for this week:

  1. Ask open-ended questions. “How was your day?” isn’t going to cut it anymore. Instead, try “What was the hardest/most exciting part of your day?”, “What were some highs and lows of your day?” Open-ended questions usually begin with “What” and they invite further conversation because they [hopefully] can’t be answered with a single word, grunt, or short phrase.

  2. Follow up with, “Tell me more about that,” or, “What did you do about that?” or, “What was that like?” (This is your opportunity to practice active listening).

Can I give you three quick tips?

  1. Look for opportunities to talk when they are most comfortable - often around the table, in the car, or on a walk, when their attention is elsewhere.

  2. Don’t push it. If your child doesn’t want to talk, forcing them may be the worst thing for relationship building. Let them know you are ready to listen when they want to talk and then actually do that.

  3. If your child is still shutting down, it might be time to investigate. Ask their teachers, friends, youth leaders, or others they trust if they seem okay and if there’s anything you should know about. Be honest with your child and tell them what you’re observing and that you are concerned about them. Give them an opportunity to share honestly, even if they tell you something that is hard to hear.

Need more help? Book a free Discovery Session here to find out how my Flourishing Home Framework can help your family flourish. Subscribe here to get your free guide “Ultimate ADHD Resource List”.

The content found on Flourishing Family Coaching’s website and blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding ADHD, anxiety, depression or any other medical conditions. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website or blog.

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