Raising Happy Children Using Questions
Let’s assume that all parents want their kids to be happy - period. Not happy and … a doctor, a lawyer, an artist, rich, healthy, … just happy.
Most kids come out happy and carefree and then what happens? Adults tell kids to stop being happy and get serious. Parents don’t trust their kids to do what will make them happy. They believe they know what is best for their child without even knowing what their child wants. Parents may not even be aware of the damage they are doing because they are trying their best to follow in the ways of the world that dictate the seriousness of life. What would the world be like if more people were happy doing what they are doing regardless of what that is? And for some people that may mean that being serious is how they be happy. The point is not to assume what constitutes happiness. Each person has the right to choose what happiness is for them.
How can adults empower kids to be happy?
- What if kids were asked empowering questions that would bring more awareness instead of questions that judge and create limitations?
- What if adults allowed kids to make choices without being locked into the outcome?
- What if adults were willing to allow their kids to discover what works for them and what doesn’t work, knowing that the results are not failure but lead to more discovery and awareness?
Ask a Question
As adults we often believe that we need to have the answers for our kids. How empowered does a child feel when asked a question instead of delivering an answer or solution? By asking questions, we can let them know that we trust them to explore what they know and to ask questions for what they are unsure of. By asking questions an adult can learn what the child knows and what it is that is truly being asked.
Follow along this scenario:
Child asks to climb a large tree in the park. A common response from adults is – “No you can’t climb the tree you might fall and get hurt.” Notice that in this response, the adult has made some assumptions- 1. The child can’t climb and 2. He might fall and get hurt and 3. There is a fear about taking risks.
Let’s explore another option: Child asks to climb a large tree in the park. The adult responds with,
“Have you ever climbed a tree like that before?”
Do you feel confident that you can climb that tree?
What could happen if you climb that tree?
Is that something you are willing to risk?
How far up the tree do you feel good about climbing?
This sounds like a great adventure for you, I am willing to have you climb to the first major branch and then let’s see how you feel.”
And as an adult you don’t have to allow your child to do things that you sense would be harmful, but you can approach it from a different perspective that empowers the child and doesn’t project doubt or fear. If you as the adult don’t feel ready to have them climb the tree, you might respond with something like,
“Wow I can see how much you want to climb. I wonder if we could start with climbing the monkey bars at the park first so I can get more comfortable with the idea.”
Asking these questions allows the child to reflect on what they know rather than being told what to know. Adults are often surprised at just how much in tune kids are to what they can and can’t do if they are asked questions.
Empower Kids with Choice
What kinds of questions bring more choice for kids? Some questions that I have experienced work well are questions that provide more possibilities and don’t create more judgment and limitations.
Imagine, 8-year-old Darren would like to sleep over at a friend’s house on Friday night. This would be his first time to sleep away from home. His mother can tell that he is excited to go, and a bit hesitant at being away for the first time. His mother chooses to ask some questions to allow Darren to choose for himself whether to go or not.
A question like, “How do you feel about spending the night away from home?”
Darren responds, “I’m not sure. I want to go and have fun with my friend, but I’m nervous about sleeping someplace else.”
Mother counters with, “What would make you feel more comfortable?”
It is important to let the child see what else is possible as this empowers him to discover that he can begin to see different possibilities which will give him confidence for future choices.
He ponders it a bit and then says, “If I get homesick can I call you to come and get me?”
Mother says, “That works for me,” without any judgment attached.
Darren will go to the sleep over feeling confident.
How would Darren feel if his mother had responded with a statement like,
“Yes you can call me but you really are a big boy now and I am sure you will be fine”?
If Darren has the need to call, he is going to think that his mother doesn’t think he is a big boy and he won’t feel comfortable calling her. He may even struggle through the night by not calling and feel very uneasy. He might even buy into the idea that he isn't a big boy and that by not being a big boy he is bad or wrong. This would not be a happy child.
Some common questions that parents can begin to use with their children are:
What else do you think might be possible here?
What would it take for you to accomplish that?
How well does that work for you?
Do you require any assistance?
How does that feel to you?
Are you comfortable with that?
Another way of assisting your kids with making choices as they ask questions is to have them tune into their bodies. Our physical presence in this world can connect us to what we know which is beyond what our brain knows. I call this our inner knowing. We have all experienced it. Those butterflies in our stomachs when we are about to embark on a new experience lets us know that we are nervous or excited. Those sinking feelings we have that tell us that we need to be aware of a situation or person that may cause us harm. That light, expansive feeling we have when we want to experience something that we never have before as a way of living more fully. Our brains can’t compute the why’s or why not’s and yet we can sense whether a choice is going to go in our favor or not. Children have these senses and until they are trained to trust their brain more than their inner knowing, they are connected to it. Adults have a harder time tuning into their body as they have been disconnected from it for much longer. Just because one is disconnected from the awareness the body offers, does not mean that it can’t be turned back on. It just takes practice. That’s a blog for another day, but for today here are some questions that can be used to help a child connect to their inner knowing when making a choice.
How does your body feel if you make that choice?
How does your body feel if you don’t make that choice?
Which feels lighter, more expansive, like a door opening, or a breath of fresh air?
An adult may need to guide them through what is being felt through the body as it can be different for different people. What makes you feel lighter is true for you and what makes you feel heavy is a lie and not in your best favor.
Asking questions is the best tool that you can equip your child with as they learn that they don’t have to have all the answers but can see what wonderful possibilities show up from which to choose. Children can be taught that when a question is asked, an answer may not show up right away. In fact, what if an answer isn’t what is required, but rather an infinite number of possibilities from which to choose. And from each choice that is made an awareness comes that enlightens and enhances the inner knowing.
Using questions is an element that will promote raising happy children who learn that there are many possibilities in life that they have access to if they choose. If something isn’t working in the moment, another possibility lies in the wait if a question is asked and will be received. The challenge is to keep at it. Being in question will become a way of being that will assist with living with more ease and joy. Ask and you shall receive.