There are some questions all parents should ask their children, but before that let’s check out a story!
A kindergarten teacher was walking around the room to check each child’s work as they drew pictures. “What are you drawing?” he asked one student.
The girl said, “I’m drawing God.”
The teacher, expecting to hear butterflies and rainbows, was shocked at this deviation from the standard curriculum: “But no one knows what God looks like.”
The girl replied, “They will in a minute.”
I read this story almost 15 years ago. I was blown away by the confidence of the child.
Well, here is another one. A huge circus had 10 lions. The circus went bankrupt. The lions were returned to the wild. In less than 3 months time, 8 of those lions were killed by jungle dogs.
See the irony here? Lions were killed by dogs! Lion is the king of the jungle. Naturally, elephants, tigers, cheetahs, no one dares to attack a lion. However, the tamed lions got killed by dogs!
Somewhere, as we parent the child, we might be taming the king instead of making the king good enough to rule.
This is the typical ironical situation: The creative parent vs the conformist parent. If we wish to create our child to rule the world, they need to be inspired individuals who dream big, who seek answers and who do not hesitate to challenge the way things are.
Here is a list of seven questions parents typically ask their children. Drop those questions and replace them with another question.
- Questions all parents should ask their children –
- “What did you learn today?” vs. “What did you ask today?”
- “What did you achieve this week?” vs. “What did you fail at, this week?”
- “Do it this way.” vs. “What do you think are the possible ways to solve this?”
- “Here’s your school” vs. “Which school do you want to attend?”
- “It is like THIS only” vs. “Wow. What an amazing question. Why don’t you figure out the answer?”
- “It’s not possible.” vs. “What would it take to make that possible?”
- “Was school ok? How are your friends?” vs. “Did you help someone today?”
Questions all parents should ask their children –
“What did you learn today?” vs. “What did you ask today?”
The cliche question “What did you learn in school today?” reinforces the traditional conception of education: Put your mouth on the fountain of knowledge. Drink deeply and reproduce it on demand.
Here is a curious insight. A willingness to seek and dig knowledge is far more important than the ability to receive and retain it. Important dates in the history of the golden age of India and the capitals of the states will be forgotten soon enough. Once ingrained, however, the ability to ask questions seeking clarity will remain. ‘I seek knowledge’ will always be one of the greatest attributes of a person.
“What did you achieve this week?” vs. “What did you fail at, this week?”
In our society, it is a stigma to fail. Many of us deeply suffer failure psychosis.
Behind every love unexpressed, every adventure avoided, every canvas unpainted, every goal unattempted, every experiment not done, every path not taken, every business that wasn’t launched, every book unwritten, and every song unsung is the looming fear of failure.
Sara Blakely, the founder of Spanx, is the world’s youngest self-made female billionaire. She credits her success to one question that her father would ask her each week:
What have you failed at this week?
Have you heard the saying, ‘not trying is far more disappointing than failure itself’.
Why is this question of failure, important? Among other reasons, to take the fear of failure away, to reflect on it, to learn from it, and to improve in the next attempt.
“Do it this way.” vs. “What do you think are the possible ways to solve this?”
When a child comes to us with an issue, our initial instinct is to immediately solve it. To save time and hassle, we take it in our hand and DO IT.
Resist that instinct. Make them think about solutions. Ideate with them. Appreciate their effort and point them in the right direction. The process of finding the solution is far more important than the solution itself.
A rich farmer was making his son till the land. A neighbour farmer said, “Why are you so miser? Take a labour and cultivate the land, no!” The farmer replied, “I am not cultivating the land. I am cultivating my son.”
In the gym, the personal trainer DOES NOT lift the weights for the clients. He guides them and pushes them beyond their mental boundaries. Just like physical muscles, the brain muscles too must be exercised to grow and mature.
You may even go one step ahead. After your children solve the problem, ask them to solve it in a different way. You will teach them, there are more than one ways to solve any issue.
“Here’s your school” vs. “Which school do you want to attend?”
When Neeraj, our son was two and a half years old, we decided it was time for him to go to a kindergarten school. We vetted a few schools in the neighborhood of Kalyaninagar in Pune and shortlisted 3. We then told him that he could choose which school he wants to go to.
It was a life-defining moment for him. Pleasantly surprised, he asked. “I really get to chose my school”. We nodded sagely. I overheard him saying to his tricycle friends, “I am a big boy. I am also a responsible boy. That is why my parents have allowed me to chose my school.” His self-pride was unmistakable.
The message that we wanted him to take is, “He is in control of his destiny.”
“It is like THIS only” vs. “Wow. What an amazing question. Why don’t you figure out the answer?”
Children are masters at asking questions. They are explorers. They are inventors. They are creative. They are driven, not by a desire to impress, but by genuine curiosity. They soak in the surroundings, get mesmerized, and they want to know more. They approach life with the desire to experiment, understand and store away.
How can we stand still if the world is spinning? (And they take a spin and are confused why they fall?)
Why does green and red and blue become white in a spinning wheel? (Have you done this experiment?)
Why a black buffalo eats green grass and gives white milk? (Good lord?).
Adults become baffled by the child’s questions. It interferes with their stable life. It points out to a knowledge gap. We wish to be the Superman of our child’s life. These questions reveal we are ordinary. We do not like it. We may end up stifling the child’s curiosity.
I understand its difficult. However, instead of stifling your children’s curiosity, nurture it. Encourage them to find their answers and motivate them to remain curious. It’s this ability to ask that has resulted in every major human breakthrough.
Cultivate their curiosity as much as you can. It can turn out to be their best asset.
“It’s not possible.” vs. “What would it take to make that possible?”
Don’t tell your children that their ideas are crazy or infeasible.
Imagine if a young Newton had been silenced when he posed this seemingly crazy hypothetical question, “Why do things fall? Imagine how a busy teacher or an annoyed parent would have dealt with that question. Its resolution ultimately culminated in the discovery of Gravity.
Open up possibilities instead of closing them off. Encourage seemingly crazy ideas by engaging with your children: “What help do you need to find the answer?”
“Was school ok? How are your friends?” vs. “Did you help someone today?”
The first question is a superficial question. The second one emphasizes on developing a spirit of generosity. It builds character. It creates abundance mentality. It nurtures genuine connections. It encourages your child to be on the lookout for opportunities to help others. Would you want your child to do that?
What do you think about these ‘replaced’ questions? Would you enjoy parenting more with these questions? Would your child be nurtured better with these questions?
Would love to have a conversation with you on this.
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