I had been out of college for a year when I interviewed for a job as an executive’s personal assistant. I expected the meeting to take about an hour. However, as his personal assistant, he’d be giving me open access to his whole life, so he needed to know he could trust me. By the end of the interview, three hours had passed, and he knew everything about me. His ability to ask incisive questions and the spirit with which he did it amazed me. He was like a question artist. What he asked never felt uncomfortable or invasive. His genuine interest and questions opened me up at a time when I tended to be guarded.
Our kids are filled with a wealth of ideas, passions, views, and perceptions just waiting for someone to explore them the way that executive explored mine. It should be us, their dads, who blaze the first exploration. With genuine interest and the right questions, we can get our kids to open up and bare their souls. Here are 6 good questions to ask your child.
1. What would you do if you were me?
If you want to get your kids talking more, give them a voice in your life. This builds trust and lets them know you value their thoughts and opinions. Next time you have a situation or decision that requires some thought, ask for their opinion. Calling them to a higher level of thought is an exercise in wisdom. You don’t need to heed their advice, but just asking for it will honor them.
2. What do you think would make the world better?
First, you will get an idea of the things about the world they think are wrong. Be prepared, because you may get a glimpse of some painful stuff that has happened to them that you don’t know about yet. This is especially true if they start by eliminating something negative in the world. Second, it gives them a vision of the type of person they want to be. The follow-up question to this one is what do you think we can do to help make that happen?
3. What do you love most?
We all end up as servants to what we love the most, and sometimes we even become a slave to it. Career, drugs, family, sex, money, relationships, power, self, fame, God—whatever you love the most, you will serve. Naturally, there are follow-up questions: Is that thing/person worthy of your service and devotion? What does devotion to it produce? This line of questioning will get your kids thinking about the consequences (good and bad) of where they invest their hearts. What should we love the most?We all end up as servants to what we love the most, and sometimes we even become a slave to it.
4. If you could describe yourself in three words, which words would you choose?
This is a good way to get an idea about how your kids view themselves. You will learn where they find their identity. Pay attention to whether those words are positive or negative. Follow up this question by asking why they chose those words.
5. How can I help you?
We can’t always assume we know what our kids want or need. It’s important to hear it from them. Sometimes they know best what they need from us, and what they need may even be a little space for them to explore, dare, and fail on their own.
6. Why do you think your mother and I had kids?
The answer to this question is central to their origin and affects their sense of identity. The reason we had kids is to have someone to love. They were created in love. Their sense of identity is that they are loved. They need to know and understand that well, or they will live with a hole in their lives.
Note: A great way to have these discussions is by having breakfast with your kids. The All Pro Dad Chapters program facilitates many discussions like this between dads and kids. Groups generally meet once a month and create opportunities for dads and kids to connect. Find an All Pro Dad chapter in your area or look into starting one.
Sound off: Can you think of some other good questions to ask our kids?
Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What type of impact do you want to have on the world?”