How to Ask the Right Questions
“How was your day?” “Fine.”
“What did you learn today?” “Nothing.”
“Are you finished with your science project?” “No.”
Being on the receiving end of one-word answers from adolescents is all too familiar. And disheartening. Our curiosity remains unquenched. We want to know the details of their day, their stories, and what they experienced.
A simple solution exists for getting beyond one-word answers. The key is in the phrasing. Specifically, open-ended questions and statements invite and encourage conversational responses and elaborating. Your open style shows your care, intrigue, and support. Optimum question structures are below.
Narrow the topic rather than asking broad questions such as, “How was your day?”
“I was cranky this morning. I’m sorry about that. How can I make this afternoon better?”
“You were worried about Yearbook. What do you see happening with doing it remotely?”
“Your teacher emailed me about the spring History field trip. March is a ways away. What are your thoughts?”
Ask specific rather than general questions such as, “What did you learn today?”
“I love hearing about the time-travel-trading game in Language Arts. What swaps made you laugh?”
“How did you approach changing decimals to fractions on your math test? You were worried.”
“Hey, it’s Thursday. Tell me the words you got asked in the Spanish spelling bee.”
Notice effort, quality, and planning over a completion question such as, “Did you finish your homework?”
“You’ve been working hard with your partner. What steps are next?”
“You’re almost finished reading The Outsiders. What’s motivating you to read it is so quickly?”
“I admire your dedication to your AP class. You’ve taken on a lot of responsibility. What makes it different than a non-AP class?”
Well formatted prompts are grounded in your curiosity about and interest in your child. Each of your open-ended question or statement express a bid for a tour inside their world. You open the door for an infinite number of answers, ideas, and insights. It’s a safe and secure place to be, and hopefully fun for the both of you!
To learn more open-ended statements and questions, click here. Practice, practice, practice! You’ll value the results.
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