Most families at some point experience power struggles between parents and kids. These struggles can create tension and stress for everyone in the family, and they do not help us nurture a respectful atmosphere within the family. One technique for defusing power struggles, as well as alleviating stress, is the simple act of asking questions.
Which is more powerful, a question or a statement?
“Stop behaving that way,” is more likely to create resistance than saying, “Can you save that behavior for later?”
“That’s too expensive. I’m not buying it,” will probably create more of a battle than, “How are you planning to pay for that?”
“Take out the trash. I’m not taking you to your friend’s house until you do,” stands a better chance of starting a protracted argument than, “When do you suppose I’ll be willing to take you to your friend’s house?”
Many times, a thoughtful inquiry has a far greater impact on our kids’ thinking and behavior than a statement. Why is this?
Statements tend to create resistance.
Questions are more likely to create thinking.
Why are questions so powerful? Do they cause our minds to search for closure in the form of answers? Does the brain have less energy to fight when it’s busy pondering a question?
Examples of strategic questions include:
- When do I allow kids to enjoy treats?
- When do I listen to kids?
- Who needs to decide what type of life you have? Can I make sure that you have the skills you will need to get a job, or is that something that is really up to you?
- What do you think might happen if you don’t let me know where you are? If you ran into a serious problem, how would I know where to find you in order to help?
- When I pick up your toys for you, who gets to keep them?
- How can you prove that you are ready to drive the car?
As our children get older, will they need even better decision-making skills than we needed when we were their age? Are the consequences of their decisions far more serious than they were even a decade ago? Are there more life-and-death questions today? How will our children get good at thinking?
Sometimes it’s smart to tell our kids what to do, but will we enjoy fewer power struggles if we keep this to a minimum?
What’s another benefit of asking questions? When we ask questions, we communicate a very powerful and loving message:
I know that you can think! I believe in you!
Michelle Gerlach family life coordinator