Authored by Ceetee Sheckels in Parenting
Published on 01-03-2010
Open ended questions are an excellent way to facilitate communication. There is another, equally relevant point, which you may not have considered. When you ask open ended questions, you are letting the person know that what he thinks and feels is important to you. Although this is true for anyone, it is an especially good way to communicate with children of all ages.
While “What do you want to be when you grow up?” has long been a standard open ended question for children, adults often do not realize the wonderful impact of such a question. It is less about receiving an answer than it is about giving your child the chance to think for himself, and to express himself. He will have the chance to share his dreams and goals with someone who is listening, and who is receptive to whatever he has to say.
Open ended questions which begin with “What do you think about-” or “What do you feel about-” are appropriate for children in all age groups. Depending upon the child’s age and interests, these kinds of open ended questions can range from your child’s favorite t.v. show to the sports team he follows, from politics to the stories he sees or reads in the news. If you focus on your child’s interests, you can easily find age-appropriate open ended questions for him.
Asking questions based on yes-or-no answers does have its place. When nothing is required beyond a yes-or-no response, it makes communication goal-oriented and efficient. However, open ended questions do so much more. Instead of simply requesting an answer, open ended questions give the child the opportunity to explore possibilities, and then express them.
Open ended questions let your child know that his opinions and viewpoints are valid. There are many benefits for the child who receives this foundation early in life. These benefits range from learning how to better communicate with others, to seeing himself as a worthwhile person, and more. The parent who gives his or her time and attention in this manner is teaching valuable lessons which the child will carry throughout life.
“What do you think about-” a noteworthy news story or a community event can get the ball of communication rolling for even the quietest child. The youngster who is not talkative by nature will almost certainly open up when his opinion and viewpoints are requested. “What do you think about the way your teacher handled that situation?” does much more than invite a thoughtful response. Open ended questions like this show that you care about what your child thinks and how he feels.
There are plenty of opportunities every day for open ended questions. If you are at a loss about where to begin, you can start with asking your child what he would like to do or be when he grows up. While this standard question is as appropriate for a kindergartner as for a teen, each child’s response will be different. You are letting him know that he is an individual, and that his views are valuable to you. It is a positive lesson for kids of all ages.