While each of the ten high-impact parent-child communication skills described in Connect with Your Kid are amazingly effective, their power magnifies greatly when used in combination.
Without question, my favorite one-two combo is listening, followed by open-ended questions to encourage your child to think. Both draw their strength from compassion and honor the child’s growing abilities.
For example, mom comes into five-year-old Terra’s room while she’s busy making a Leggo tower.
Mom: “Wow! That’s really tall! Looks like fun!” Listening
Mom: “You seem to enjoy making tall things. What do you like most about making tall towers?” Open-ended question
Terra: “I want to see how tall I can make it so it doesn’t fall down.”
Mom: “You’re learning how to make towers that are tall and strong.” Listening
Mom: “What did you do to make this one so strong?” Open-ended question
Terra: “If you make it bigger at the bottom, it doesn’t fall over.”
Mom: “I like it!”
Ten years later, mom picks up Terra after a soccer team practice. Terra does not seem happy.
Mom: “You seem down in the dumps.” Listening
Terra: “Coach hates me.”
Mom: “Why do you say that?” Open-ended question
Terra: “She always yells at me, gets on my case.”
Mom: “That must be hard to deal with.” Listening
Terra: “I’m trying hard to do what she says, but it’s never enough. When she yells at me, it makes me feel like a fool.”
Mom: “Why do you think she does that?” Open-ended question
Terra: “Mostly, she doesn’t think I get my teammates the ball enough.”
Mom: “What do you think?” Open-ended question
Terra: “It isn’t so easy with a defender on you. And I hate it that she yells at me.”
Mom: “So Coach is tough on you and that doesn’t feel good. What can you do to get her to back off?” Open-ended question
Terra: “Are you kidding? She’s the Coach!”
Mom: “I get that. But why do you think she’s so demanding?” Listening, open-ended question
Terra: “She keeps pushing me to do better. I guess that’s it.”
Mom: “It sounds like she believes in you, believes you can do better.” Listening
Terra: “I guess so.”
Mom: “So, what can you do to get her to stop yelling at you?” Open-ended question
Terra: “Ha! Yelling is how she coaches.”
Mom: “I mean, what can you do to get her to yell at you less often?” Open-ended question
Terra: “I don’t know. I’ll just have to try harder to get better.”
Mom: “How do you think that will work for you?” Open-ended question
Terra: “I’m trying. I don’t know if she’ll stop yelling at me, but I’ll keep on trying.”
Mom: “I know you will. That’s my girl.” Listening
You can get better at listening and asking open-ended questions. Together, they work far better than lecturing or giving advice. You can learn more about these two skills in Connect with Your Kid. Chapter 4 focuses on listening. Chapter 5 gives dozens of examples of helpful open-ended questions.