Teach Your Children Beautiful Questions – Part 1

My son started kindergarten, yesterday. He was very excited, especially when he saw a friend he’d gone to daycare with. It was pretty wonderful for his mom and me. We love the idea of him learning and exploring and being curious for a full school year. (And we’re super-fond of his teacher and his school.)

One of the special things about kindergarten, and why it is so important, is that it can be a perfect environment for learning with curiosity and passion. There are no tests to “teach to” and there is very little to memorize. (Though memorizing certain things matters a lot, too.) In kindergarten, it’s still ok not to know the answer to something. In kindergarten, it’s still ok to ask questions.

Kindergarten teachers are generally talented and caring educators. They are excellent guides for young minds to pursue their curiosity and wonder. Equally important, in kindergarten, there are lots of other kids, equally curious, to bang ideas around with. Kindergarten can be one of the last times in our education system where kids are encouraged to learn with eyes wide open, with beginners mind for long durations of time.

Sadly, kindergarten can be one of the last times in our education system where kids are encouraged to learn with eyes wide open, with beginners mind for long durations of time.

Since kids that look at things with enquiring minds are much more likely to thrive – especially in a constantly changing world like ours – it’s important that us parents help them keep the spirit of kindergarten throughout their years. It matters that we don’t let school, peers, work – or even us! – make them think that their questions and passions don’t matter.  If nurtured, kids’ curiosity and passion will enable them to live robust, beneficial lives, and be of good service to others. 

It’s Never Too Late 

No matter how old our kids are, we can be a little bit like a good kindergarten teacher and encourage them to ask questions. Even better, we can teach them how to ask beautiful questions.

The next post with cover more of the “How to create a beautiful question. For now, let’s look more at why we need to do so, in the first place.

Why Should I Teach my Child to ask Questions?

Asking our children meaningful questions invites them to think deeply about the world around them. A beautiful question from us demonstrates that we also think deeply and find joy and meaning in things (including our kids!).

A child who learns to ask good questions will enjoy a much freer life; one less burdened by false assumptions. She will think less in terms of “right” and “wrong” and be more flexible in her thinking. Importantly, she will also learn how to make better decisions.

A child who learns to ask good questions will enjoy a much freer life; one less burdened by false assumptions. She will think less in terms of “right” and “wrong” and be more flexible in her thinking. Importantly, she will also learn how to make better decisions.

If a person can’t ask a good question, they will not be able to think very clearly at all. After all, curiosity is the root of all knowledge. Agriculture, books, braided hair, pi, and even schools themselves, are the result of a person or a group of people asking, “Why?” “How?” “When?” “Where?” and “What?”

If you are a parent of an older child, struggling to get a child to do her or his homework done, remember this: There would be no homework to get your kid to do if someone hadn’t asked something like, “How do I help a student deepen their learning  after school hours?” Questions are, indeed, the root of all knowledge.

Are There Dumb Questions? 

Firstly, lets acknowledge that some questions are rhetorical and aren’t even questions. Rhetorical questions are fine, except when they are intended to shut down rather than to open up; to describe rather than to question.

“Why do you never do your homework???” – that’s not really a question. That’s an accusation with question marks. It’s not a dumb question, because it’s not a question at all. Such things are said out of frustration and not out of curiosity or a commitment to actually helping. These “Why’s” are parental cries for help, and cries that likely hurt the child hearing it.

Since it’s our job to teach our kids good habits, we need to cut out rhetorical and accusatory questions like that. We need to practice asking questions with curiosity.

What Questions Help?

So we discard the rhetorical questions. We decide to be actually, genuinely be curious. We endeavour to ask our kids real questions that help them get the help they need, to help themselves, or that simply demonstrate that we don’t know and we’re curious.

Where do we begin? What do we ask?

It would start with the parent asking questions such as:

“What can I do to help my kid get in the habit of doing her homework?”

“Are there any problems with the material itself? – Does she need some more support?”

“Is the homework a valuable thing for her to do? Do I need to talk with the school about concerns about the material?”

“Are there household routines that make it easier or harder to have a good homework schedule?”

“Should I threaten to light her iPad on fire and jump on it if she doesn’t do her homework tonight?”

And etc.

Reading the examples above, you can likely see how helpful your curiosity can be. It’s also clear that not all questions are of the same merit. Some are more useful than others. In fact, some questions are downright full of negative assumptions and not helpful.

It’s clear that once we ask ourselves meaningful questions and allow ourselves to question our own assumptions, we will be in a much better headspace to help our kids excel at school.

And we’re much more likely to get good answers and follow-up from our kids if we ask good, well timed, questions.

Imagine If Your Boss asked you a Beautiful Question

Why don’t we ask good questions often enough? It’s probably because we’re afraid of looking dumb or like a pain-in-the-butt. Curiosity is pretty heavily disincentivized in many homes, classrooms, and work situations.

Curiosity can get you sent to the principles office or fired from a job.

But just imagine if you made a massive mistake at work. And instead of your boss saying, “Why are you so stupid? Or “Why did you screw that up?” She said, “You blew that one. But, was there anything I could have done, as your boss, to have set you up to succeed?”

What if she meant it? What if your boss actually cared about you enough to hold onto her judgement for a minute and to tune into you?

I bet that would feel productive. I bet your loyalty to your boss and your organization would go up a notch or two!

Back when I had employers,  I know I worked a lot harder for bosses who demonstrated curiosity and who allowed me to own my own mistakes and to be a part of fixing them. And, these days, since I have a strict “No Jerk” policy, I refuse entirely to work with people who belittle or insult me or others on a regular basis. I don’t do business with people who make the work environment a hostile place. Period.

Ditto for your kids. If you demonstrate curiosity and ask good questions, they will be a lot more likely to act well, make good decisions, and to question harmful authority.


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