How to open up dialogue with your teen

Submitted by mfitch on February 13, 2009 - 05:39. ::

THE THREE BEST QUESTIONS
The three best questions I know are explorations of what, why, and how:
- Talk about what you think is important.
- Talk about why you think it's important.
- Talk about how you think that changes things.
I like these questions because they're honest. They're not meant to persuade or challenge or compel; they're meant to clarify.
Asking what, why, and how questions is an offer to pay attention to another person's perceptions, thoughts, ideas, hopes, and intentions. If you can get honest answers to these three questions, you'll know where things stand with the other person and you'll have an idea of what to do next.
Begin with any human experience--a movie, a sermon, a song, an argument, a book, an accident, an aha!, a success, a failure, a passage from the Bible, a discovery...anything at all. Then ask, "Tell me what you think that was. What just happened?"
Don't get hung up on the wording; there's more than one way to ask what.
What? = What do you think happened? = What stood out for you? = Did anything surprise you? = Describe it to me. = Tell me about it...
Whatever words you use, what questions invite a person to describe her own perceptions of an experience. It really doesn't matter what experience; what matters is hearing her describe it (so you don't just assume, or guess, or wish). The same is true for why questions.
Why? = So what? = Why is that significant to you? = Why do you think it happened? = Tell me more about that...
However you ask, the why question explores why, out of all possible meanings, did this one occur to you? The answer can tell you something you couldn't know if you didn't pose the question.
Asking why can be the catalyst for deeper reflection by the person on the receiving end of the question:
- Asking, "Why do you think you identified more closely with that character than the others?" invites reflection about empathy and compassion.
- Asking, "Why do you think you misunderstood that?" invites a person to consider why he heard something that wasn't said.
- Saying, "Talk about why you find that comforting" calls for self-assessment and invites self-disclosure.
And so it goes... These are all valuable considerations people--especially adolescent people--are not often encouraged to share in an emotionally safe context.
How is the money question because it clarifies what a person actually learned?
How? = Now what? = How do you plan to respond? = How will that make a difference? = How does that change things? = Tell me what you intend to do about that.
Kids who can answer how questions--especially if they follow through on their intentions to behave differently, to repeat a success, or to avoid a failure--have really learned something from their experience.
Simplicity is part of the beauty of this process. Once you learn to ask these questions naturally and unselfconsciously, you can help kids understand what you're doing and why. For the last couple of decades, I've urged kids to ask these three types of questions at the end of every reading assignment and class session--promising they'll raise their grade by half a point minimum. I have yet to hear from any dissatisfied customers.
Here's why I think this works: I think these three questions swing the spotlight around to where it belongs--so we can see the learner. We already have a pretty good idea what the teacher knows; it's right there in the presentation (whatever that may be). Transferring wisdom isn't merely a matter of making statements--what passes for teaching most of the time. Transferring wisdom depends on engaging students where they are and helping them take the next step toward where they need to go.
I've come to believe that people learn what they can learn--what they're prepared to learn--not what they're supposed to learn. Good teachers don't pour knowledge into people; good teachers create intriguing environments where learners find what they need to modify or build on what they've learned so far. As a teacher the best tool I have for that task is engaging kids in new experiences (of whatever sort) and then asking what, why, and how.
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Jim Hancock invested two decades as a church-based youth worker. Now he spends his days in Leucadia, California, writing and creating digital movies and learning designs like "Raising Adults," "The Justice Mission," and the "Good Sex" curriculum for youth workers, parents, and adolescents.
 
 
Jim Hancock invested two decades as a church-based youth worker. Now he spends his days in Leucadia, California, writing and creating digital movies and learning designs like "Raising Adults," "The Justice Mission," and the "Good Sex" curriculum for youth workers, parents, and adolescents.
 
from Youth Specialties Parent Newsletter
http://www.youthspecialties.com/freeresources/newsletters/parent?issue=47