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Better Parents: Asking Narrow Focussed Questions Is Better Than Telling!

As you know when we ask Better Questions we are enabling the other person to bring their own creative ideas and wisdom to the discussion, which I personally feel is a good thing. How wonderful that we create a positive freeing environment for people to explore and generate their own ideas – this doesn’t happen very often anywhere else in people’s lives!

That said, I sometimes get concerns raised with me that by asking questions we are 'inviting trouble'! Occasionally, this concern is valid, such as in a situation or an environment where it isn't appropriate to invite complete free thinking and creativity.  Let me give you an example to illustrate what I mean:

Let’s imagine that your child is having problems waking in the night and often asks to come into bed with you. You have decided that this isn’t an option you want for your child as you have concerns about the long term impact of allowing this to happen. So when your child is unsettled in the night and you decide to ask a Better Question you may be tempted to ask “What can you do to help yourself to get back to sleep?”  Of course you know full well that the answer is going to be that they want to come to your bed and sleep with you, which clearly isn’t an option that you want to explore or indeed debate…especially in the middle of the night!

So the dilemma here is that you want to ask a Better Questions BUT the answer that you know you will get isn’t one that you want to explore. It is tempting to decide not to bother using a questioning approach as it isn’t going to work! Surely in this instance many would consider that it will be better to provide the child with the options that they can explore, which as we know takes our style back to more of being a ‘teller’.

My advice in situations like this is to still take a questioning approach but narrow the options in the question asked. So in this instance the Better Question to ask would be, “I know you’d like to come to Mum and Dad’s bed, but that isn’t an option, so what else do you think you can do to help yourself get back to sleep?” I hope that you can see that the question is still enabling resourcefulness and responsibility, but the potential options have been narrowed by the question itself. For me this is a better approach than reverting back to a more telling approach as we are still getting all the benefits of using a question, albeit we are limiting the options for answers.

In an ideal world, I would say that I don’t like asking questions that restrict options and creativity, but the reality is that this will sometimes have to be the case. So my advice is not to use these questions too often as you are limiting creativity and bringing more of a controlling approach to the conversation BUT at the same time there will be occasions where you choose this to be the best approach, given the situation you are faced with. After all narrow focused questions are still better than telling.

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