Just this week, three dads have said something like this to me, “I want to get my teen to talk with me, but he just won’t.” Is the issue with the withdrawn child? Or, is the issue more with the parent’s approach in how they talk with their children?
My observation: most parents do more telling than asking. Early on, this is effective. As our kids mature, we need to shift gears. When we do, I think we accelerate open dialogue with our kids.
One of my favorite parenting books is Shepherding a Child’s Heart, by Tedd Tripp. In this book, Mr. Tripp uses the term, “rich entreaty” to describe an effective parent’s posture. To summarize: if we ask boring questions (“How was school today?”), then, we get boring answers (“Fine.”). Rich entreaty = asking more compelling questions.
Stepping back, let’s consider three gears we shift between with our kids. All are necessary, but sometimes we get stuck in one for too long:
- We’re the TELLER. Stop hitting your sister. Clean up your room. Be home by eleven.
- The BORING ASKER. Where’s mom? What time’s practice? Did you finish your homework?
- The COMPELLING ASKER. Let’s unpack this one.
I realize there are times for each posture above. Sometimes, we just gotta know if there’s more peanut butter in the pantry. However, guy who wants to be on the road to being an engaged father isn’t trying to locate household items. He wants more. Yet, he’s most likely stuck in first or second gear.
This third gear – becoming a compelling asker – is a potent parenting weapon, for several reasons:
- When we’re asking, we’re steering. We control the conversation.
- We’re asking compelling questions, we’re requiring