Are you asking the right questions?

question markSometimes in order to get the most meaningful answers, you need to ask the right questions.

You know how you usually have an annual review at work and basically your boss gives you feedback about what’s working and what’s not working regarding your performance?  In the right frame of mind you can use this feedback to modify how you’re doing things so that your performance is more in line with what’s expected and needed on the job.

You can use this same approach to gather feedback about how you’re doing as a parent.  And who better to ask than…your kids?  They are the ones who are living day in and day out with your expectations, your triggers, your reactions, your nurturing, and your ways of giving and receiving love.

Over the years I’ve found some questions that have been helpful to me as a parent to glean what it is exactly that I do to help my children thrive and feel loved and what it is I do to make them feel less than that. Their answers over the years have been useful information to help shape my parenting style. And just asking the questions lets them know that they matter. That their input is a part of the relationship equation and that I want to learn and grow in my role as their mother.

Some of these questions came from reading Marshall Rosenberg’s Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life and Pam Leo’s Connection Parenting and some are my own as I delved deeper into what was working and what needed improvement in building my relationship with my sons.

Questions for the Kids:

1.  How did I make your life more wonderful today?
2.  How did I make your life less than wonderful today?
3.  What made you feel loved today?
4.  What do you like most about me?
5.  What do you like most about yourself?
6.  What do you like most about your brother? (asked in the presence of each other)
7.  What is your growing edge? (What do you need to work on yourself?)
8.  What do you see as my growing edge? (What do you think I need to work on?)

The secret is to be completely open to whatever answer your child gives. There are no right or wrong answers….just good useful information. This is not a time to get defensive or convey a lesson. Ask with a curious mind and an open heart. Then use the information to celebrate the little things that lead to closeness between you and your child and to repair any ruptures in the relationship.  Ask often and savor the precious moments of connection.

♥♥♥ LOVE IN ACTION ♥♥♥

Ask your child one or two of these questions every night this week and be open to receive the answers. Thank your child for sharing his or her thoughts with you, then use the information you hear to make adjustments in how you interact with your child.

Listen earnestly to anything [your children] want to tell you, no matter what. If you don’t listen eagerly to the little stuff when they are little, they won’t tell you the big stuff when they are big, because to them all of it has always been big stuff.” (Catherine M. Wallace, author)

 

 

WTF?

little kid cryingBe honest.  What’s your first reaction when your child walks over and knocks down the Lego tower her brother has just spent the last ten minutes building? Or how about when your son is flipping like a fish in the grocery store aisle because you said no to the sugary cereal—again?

Let me guess.  Do you yell?  Do you put her in time-out?  Do you lecture, threaten, punish?  All of the above?  Do you casually push your cart past the melt-down in the cereal aisle pretending you don’t know the small creature writhing about?

Trust me, I know how difficult it is to keep yourself together when you child is “misbehaving” or “losing it.”  Not too long ago, it wasn’t uncommon, while Krogering, for the manager to open a special check-out line just for me in order to expedite getting me and my screaming banshee out of there!

But what I have found over the years is that the strategies listed above have several unintended results. Namely, (a) they tend to exacerbate the problem instead of solve it (especially with a strong-willed child), (b) they don’t help the child think about what they’ve done…or why…or how they might solve the problem differently next time, and (c) they don’t help parents feel competent and effective.

What I suggest instead is to get curious.  WTF?  What’s The Feeling being displayed through the behavior?  What emotion is your child acting out?  And then “name it to tame it” as child neuropsychiatrist Dan Siegel says.

Help your child start to develop emotional literacy by guessing what he’s feeling and naming it:

“You sound very very frustrated.”
“You are so angry that you can’t have the cereal you want.”

Then validate the feeling by saying something like:

“It’s hard to really really want something and not be able to have it.”
“I know.  I hate it too when I can’t have what I want.”

WTN? Then guess What’s the Need underneath the feeling?  Often it’s a need for autonomy, for choice.  You can relate to that, right?  Don’t you also like having autonomy and choice in your life?  There’s nothing wrong with our children wanting that too.

It’s healthy to let them have as much choice as they can handle for their age.  And it’s also okay to set a loving limit when there are some choices that we decide are non-negotiable (like choices that have to do with safety, well-being, and health).

Then instead of trying to manage their behavior, spend that energy building your skill in being able to hold the limit and also hold your child’s intense feelings in response to the limit.  This can be hard to do, but it will help your child to develop insight into his own inner emotional life and, as he matures, to be able to problem-solve and find other ways to meet needs.

I invite you to develop the art of curiosityWhat’s the Feeling?  What’s the Need?   Developing honest curiosity about your child’s emotional life leads to greater understanding and a stronger connection.