I’m frequently asked this question by my coaching clients: Why won’t my kids talk to me?
You spend all day at work and can’t wait to connect with your kids when you get home, only to ask “how was your day?” and you’re greeted with one word answers, empty stares, and closed doors (teens). Or, you’re picking the kids up from school and ask, “how’d it go today?” and there’s crickets. Is ‘sharing how their day was’ as stupid as when you asked how it went at the dentist appointment last week?
Well, maybe it is that stupid.
Or perhaps it’s how you’ve been responding to their answers that keeps them from wanting to engage.
Step #1 – let’s look at the questions you’re asking.
Step #2 – let’s look at your responses to the questions.
Step #1: The Beragement
How was your day?
Who’d you play with?
How’d the test go?
Did you have PE or art?
What happened at soccer?
Are Whatshisname and Susieface still dating?
Blech… how would you like to be berated when you got home from work?
What happened at work today?
What did you listen to on your commute?
Did you get good gas mileage?
Who was on your conference call?
What did you eat for lunch?
Good grief – no one wants that after a day of work. And kids aren’t interested in talking about their mundane day-to-day tasks at school either. Frankly, most kids don’t find their math results all that interesting of a dinner topic.
Mom, you’ve got to come up with something better.
There’s so much more to your kids than what they did every minute of their day away from you! And same goes for you.
You’d be amazed at how many kids can talk about big topics like current events or social trends or the little things like plans for the weekend, observations from their day or a new joke they heard. Share your day, talk about “adult things” and see if the kids chime in. The less time we spend talking about the minutiae of life, the more opportunity there is to find the juicy good stuff that really provides a connection. The key is to ask CURIOUS QUESTIONS that provide your kids an opportunity to learn about themselves.
Examples of Curious Questions:
What made you giggle today?
Did you notice the teacher being extra nice or extra harsh with one of your classmates?
When is it hardest for you to pay attention?
Is it hard to stand in line and be quiet?
Who is the funniest kid in your class?
Who would you like to be friends with?
Who is most interesting in your class?
What are your favorite things to do at recess?
Describe your music teacher.
If you were the teacher, how would you teach?
Who makes you laugh?
Who scares you?
Who is the nicest person in your class?
Do you ever feel bad for anyone in your class?
Who’s having sex?
Do you all share who you are intimate with?
Do you ever talk about your future apartment or job with your friends?
What are your friends most excited about when it comes to leaving home?
What are you most worried about when it comes to leaving home?
What do you like most about snapchat?
Who do you follow on IG and why?
Can you show me how to play?
Who is your favorite character in [favorite netflix show, movie, book]? (you could think of another dozen questions that followed this train of thinking)
Your options are unlimited! It takes a courageous parent and a willingness to go out on a limb if we are going to become a curious questioning expert, but I think it’s worth it.
Step #2: Your collective responses over time matter
When we ask our kids good, curious questions, are you listening – as in REALLY listening to their responses? Or are you prepping your answer before they even finish?
In the attempt to connect, we ask our kids questions and as soon as they try and answer, we butt in with our opinions. Or maybe we think it’s a great teaching moment. Or perhaps we are downright critical.
Criticism comes in fancy packages.
Sometimes it comes as a correction (I don’t think that’s what you meant) or
maybe it comes as ‘help’ (Oh, this is what I’d do if I were you) or
maybe it’s just downright judgement (Really, that’s not a good idea).
When we jump in with our thoughts, opinions, lectures, and corrections, our kids see this as criticism and they lose faith in our ability to listen, support and love unconditionally.
Think about that friend who no matter what you share always seems to make the conversation about herself. Or the know-it-all person who somehow makes you feel stupid every time you speak up. We avoid sharing with these people because we can’t trust them to keep their mouths closed. They need duct tape!
No different with your kids. They experience criticism over time and feel they must lie, hide and hold back their true feelings because they know we’ll butt in or correct or teach where we don’t belong. (We need duct tape!)
As our kids grow into tweens and teens and they’ve learned we can’t be trusted to accept them for who they are, they reserve their feelings, challenges and struggles for others who listen without fear of judgment. They shut the doors to to us. End of conversation.
So before you complain on the sidelines of the next soccer game, “my kid never tells me anything”, please up the ante and offer up some more interesting and respectful forms of dialogue. The kids are no different than anyone else. They’ll share when they feel comfortable and when it’s something that matters to them.
Want to go deeper into understanding the importance of asking curious questions? Here’s my FACEBOOK LIVE VIDEO (start at minute 7:00 for my pep talk on question asking).
And for more insights on how you can strengthen your relationship with your kids, go ahead and get your fanny on my email list. I promise to only send you tips strategies and inspiration to bring your closer to your kids. Sign up above!