Have you ever had this conversation with your child?
You: “How was your day?”
You sit there wondering why you can’t get more out of him!
You might even complain to your wife, “See! He just won’t talk to me!”
I may be the first to tell you this, and if I am, I’m sorry. But, I must deliver some bad news: Your question stinks. It’s a boring question that commands none of their mental energy.
You deserve the answer “Fine”.
You may gripe about your child’s inability to string two coherent sentences together. But, I want you to consider coming at it from a different angle.
Right now, I’m going to ask you to focus on one thing: the portion of your communication “disconnect” that you can control.
If you only pick up one new skill from this blog post, commit yourself to asking great questions of your kids.
Question: Could you be the reason your child isn’t connected to you?
““The purposes of a person’s heart are deep waters, but one who has insight draws them out.” —Proverbs 20:5 (NIV)
Kent Evans discusses (Video 4:23)
The above video is a snippet from The Connected Father digital course—full of videos, podcasts, eBooks, tip sheets and bonus resources to help you be the dad who leads with no regrets. Snag the full course at The Connected Father.
Sure, your child might be introverted, angry, too cool for school, or have some other communication disorder.
But, the vast majority of dads I know who say their kids won’t open up to them are usually either the “no-talking” dad or the “field-general” dad – they either say nothing at all most of the time, or they just bark out orders.
I think a large percentage of your communication disconnects are within your control. I’d argue it’s a majority, maybe as much as 80% or even 90% of your communication problem.
Said another way: the reason your kids might not be talking to you, could be you, not them. I know that may frustrate you – or, you may not believe me. Before you click passed this post, at least give me a few minutes to make my case, and later, you can decide if I’m crazy. And, as a bonus, if you find that I’m right, I have good news. It’s fixable!
You probably stink at asking great questions
I think the NUMBER ONE reason dads struggle to connect with their kids is because dads stink at asking great questions.
A few things drive this.
• Pride – we tend to talk more than we listen, and we think our stories, words and opinions are the most interesting ones in the world
• Expectations – we think it’s our job to constantly be in “instructor mode”
• Fear – many dads have told me they’re afraid their son or daughter might ask a question they don’t know how to answer
• Hurry – we just want the fastest route to the solution, and sometimes that’s a direct order, instead of taking the time to let them learn
As fathers, no question – we must give instruction. From the time they’re born, the opportunity for teaching them something is ever-present. From how to walk, stay out of the road, eat with a fork, brush their teeth, study their Bible, ride a bike, drive a car.
However, even amidst the instruction, we can ask great questions.
But, you can get better at asking great questions
One of the best ways to learn about someone is to ask great questions. Questions about their day, what they like, what they’re afraid of, why they think the way they do. When posed to your own kids, their answers become a pipeline of liquid gold. They teach you how your kids think, what they love, and even what they’re afraid of.
My oldest son loves to play guitar – and, he loves all the nuances of it. Techniques, pedals, amps, music theory – all of which is mostly lost on me! I’m not a guitar guy, and I don’t ever plan to be. However, I know that by understanding what he loves (as good as I can from “the outside”), I’m building a connection with him.
The secret behind asking great questions
Think about it this way: we often talk about “bonding” with other people – our wives, our kids, friends – as if we’re glued together. But, really, we’re both bonded to the same “other” thing, and that’s what creates the bond. Consider your buddies who support the same sports team. Are y’all “bonded as fans together” or are you both “bonded to the same team” and that creates a closeness?
When my wife and I were getting married, our pastor Bob Russell took us to lunch. He drew a triangle with April and me at the bottom, and God at the top. He said, “Don’t worry too much about getting closer ‘to each other,’ but, instead each of you worry about getting close to God. In that process, you’ll discover that you’re moving closer together.”
The power behind asking great questions
Now, I don’t advocate putting anything “in place of God”, but, the principle works the same with anything of common interest. As my son learns more about guitar, and as I learn a bit more, it creates a closeness based on the shared passion.
Great questions help you identify what’s on your child’s mind and heart. As you find those things, you can “move closer” to your kids based on their answers.
Communication is not about talking. It’s about exchanging. Thus, we must become as good at drawing others out as we are at sharing our own minds. Andy Stanley said, “Leaders who don’t listen will eventually be surrounded by people who have nothing to say.” How true.