As a Parent, Learn to Ask The Right Questions

Don't just try to give your child the right answers. Lead them to smart conclusions by offering thought-out, open-ended questions.

As a general rule, if you're in a position where you want to extract information from or make better the people around you, don't rely on simple "yes or no" questions. Open-ended queries are almost always going to elicit the best, most thought-out answers. This is true in business, education, personal relationships, and — especially — parenting.


Over at Time, Laura Stetser of Shore News Today has a piece up all about parenting like a reporter. This doesn't mean snooping around for devious information or searching for your 6-year-old's personal Watergate. Rather, Stetser's focus is on how parents talk to their kids and encourage a level of discourse that gets the child's brain moving. Just as a journalist seeks to get the best information from a source, a reporter-parent asks open-ended questions that require more in-depth answers:

"Instead of questions like 'How was school today?' — that can be answered with a simple yes, no, or O.K. — some better prompts might be, 'What’s going on at the playground during recess?' or 'What sort of things are kids fighting over in class?' Determine in advance what information you want to obtain, and craft a line of questioning that will get you there."

Not only will you have a better idea of whether your kid is getting bullied, but you'll also have set him or her up to think critically about the best way to answer. You can then toss follow-up questions their way to determine the who, what, where, and when of the situation. Especially important is to respect the reporter-source confidentiality agreement: Know when your kid wants you to be listening "off the record" for a more honest conversation about whatever they're thinking about.

Stetser's piece is a fun little thought experiment that offers tips for good parent-child conversation. Check it out (linked again below) for more ideas on how to parent like a reporter.

Of course, asking the right questions is a skill that can provide value to other subjects and studies. In the video below, Big Think expert Slavoj Žižek explains that effective questioning is at the heart of philosophy.

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