Raising independent thinkers challenges the best parents. When children refuse to go along: ask good questions. Family plans can get complicated when a child decides to resist. Toddlers may stubbornly refuse to switch gears or teenager can make life miserable in their own ways. No matter their age, children may not articulate their reservations well. After all, communication is a learned skill. Maybe a child who pitches a fit or cops a bad attitude simply has his own ideas. In those moments, nothing beats a thought-provoking question for the strategic parent.
Of course, grandparents love it when grandchildren want to stay all day and play in the sand with trucks, for instance. But I remember days when my kids refused to go into school or church. Those moments take their toll on even the best parents.
Mislabeling a Troublemaker
Furthermore, there’s one in every family; the troublemaker. We all know one child who is determined to do things his way. Too often parents respond to independent children by labeling the child as rebellious. Mislabeling a child buys mom or dad years of pain and frustration. Instead, a simple question prompts lightbulb moments with your child. “Aha!” Now both parent and child understand. Especially with independent thinkers, when children refuse to go along with the plans, asking good questions can totally change the dynamics.
Growing up, I specialized in independent thinking. My poor parents. I guess there’s justice in the world, though, since I raised independent thinkers as well. I learned that dealing with independent thinkers in the most effective way means collecting excellent questions.
Driving Me Bananas
My tendency to label surfaced when our middle child was less than a year old. She knew her own mind from the moment she arrived on the planet. But she wasn’t talking yet.
“Don’t you want this banana? Bananas are yummy,” I coaxed the adorable child in the high chair before me. How could one human be so stubborn? All young mothers everywhere know that babies love bananas. Plus, baby humans need potassium. Good mothers must feed their babies bananas. My mind logically processed my perspective right up until she could tell me her perspective.
“Mommy, bananas make my throat scratchy and hard to swallow,” she finally said in her adorable baby voice when she was about two years old. It’s a wonder she didn’t go into anaphylactic shock before she could talk! My two-year old taught me to ask better questions. Paying attention to what they can’t say turns out to be genius, too.
When our kids resist going along with our plans, wise parents have a set of good questions to investigate why the child doesn’t want to participate. As a young wife and mother, tactfulness was such a novel approach for me that for awhile I memorized new ways to speak and ask.
Examples of Good Questions
Providing your child is old enough to talk, I guarantee these two good questions will start some doozy conversations.
- Can you explain that to me a little more?
- What about this situation should I understand better?
Our kids resisted our plans along the way, but I soon discovered it often wasn’t rebellion at all. I learned to choose “That is interesting; let me think about it” instead of “Heck, no. No way.” Kids reason out their perspectives in their unique way. First, strategic parents gather enough objective data to understand what drives their kids’ reservations by asking good questions. Next, terrific discussions often follow, once we’ve identified their concrete objections. Finally, parents still make the final decision. Still, showing respect by patiently asking good questions quickly comes back to bless us all.
Listening to our kids respectfully and asking good questions trains them to care for us respectfully in our old age. When we are feeble, toddling around on our walker, they will be prepared to treat us with patience and understanding, too. Now, that’s worth going bananas over!
Cathy Krafve, Texas Author, Columnist, Speaker, and Radio Personality, specializing in Christian Marriage and Family invites your stories, ideas, and questions at CathyKrafve.com. Truth with a Texas Twang.