My favorite teacher in high school was my twelfth-grade literature teacher. In part, I liked the class simply because of the topic. But even more, the teacher knew how to ask me questions that made me think differently. We’d read a familiar text together and then he’d ask a question that would make me think about it from a whole different angle. Sometimes it was incredibly frustrating, but it was also empowering. I learned a lot about what I didn’t know as he asked questions.
As dads, we spend a lot of time thinking about what we ought to say to our sons. And when we want our sons to learn, we often spend a lot of time lecturing (I know I have). But I think the questions we ask them are just as important, if not more so. Questions don’t just require them to hold on to information, but to think critically. Here are 3 questions you need to ask your son regularly.
1. “How does that make you feel?”
Our boys are often not very in touch with their feelings. This is, in part, because neither are their dads. We value action and critical thinking over feeling. Feelings can seem weak or vulnerable. For some of us, if we’re honest, we still hold to the idea that feelings are somehow feminine.What you don’t understand will likely control you.
But this idea that men are less able or have less need to emotionally connect than women is part of why there is an epidemic of loneliness among men. We need to help our sons recognize and talk about what they’re feeling on a regular basis. It’s not that we need to encourage them to be emotional. They already are emotional creatures. We just need to encourage them to identify their emotions. After all, what you don’t understand will likely control you.
2. “How do you think that made him/her feel?”
Part two of the issue with our tendency to downplay emotions is how it can stunt our sons’ ability to develop empathy. Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. However, if our sons can’t identify their own emotions, it’s going to be hard for them to empathize with the emotions of others. This will create challenges for them in all settings where they need to interact with other people, which, let’s face it, is most of life.
One of the questions you need to ask your son regularly is how he thinks his actions impact others. This doesn’t always need to be about misbehavior. You also want to point out the way his actions make others feel good or build others up. If you make a practice of asking your son to consider the impact of his actions, he will learn to be considerate, but also that his actions have consequences, for good and bad.
3. “What is a different choice you could’ve made?”
This is such a basic question, but a powerful one. Our sons need to understand that they are free, but with freedom comes responsibility. They are responsible for their actions and must consider the consequences before acting. However, in order to do this, we’ll need to help them to consider the consequences after the fact as well.
Asking our sons to consider how they could’ve made different choices enables them to learn self-reflection. The hope is that, as they consider the impact of their actions, they can consider appropriate ways to respond in the future. While our first reaction is to use this question when our sons have done something stupid, it’s also a great question to ask when our sons choose wisely. Self-reflection is the goal, and both successes and failures can create great opportunities.
Sound off: What are other questions you need to ask your son?
Huddle up with your son and ask, “What feeling have you experienced the most today and why?”