Monday, August 17, 2009

PD Tool: Curiosity Questions

This week, I'm going to concentrate on using what Jane Nelsen calls "Curiosity Questions" with my kids in discipline (guidance, limit-setting) and problem-solving situations. Basically, it's the Socratic Method applied to parenting. From the tool card, which you can see for yourself just over there, but it's so good I'm going to quote it anyway (emphasis in original):

Asking instead of telling invites children to develop their own thinking.

Now, we do this all the time when it comes to "real" larnin'. We are a very discussion-intense family (okay, mostly Ryan and me, but Brendan and Morgan are by no means silent partners). We all ask questions about subjects we're interested in knowing more about, which leads to more questions, which leads to even more questions . . . you get the picture.

I like this strategy for discipline issues, too. When you tell a child to do something--even when you give good, sound, rational reasons--it's still a directive. And that's okay--sometimes parents need to use directives (or even coercion). But often, conflict can be avoided all together by just asking a thought-provoking question.

Which leads me to the other reason I find this to be a very effective tool (when I remember to use it)--if the child is the one who thought up the idea, then he is much more likely to go along with it!

Here are two ways I've used this tool, just today:

It was nearly time for Ryan to get ready for Taekwondo. Instead of telling him how many minutes he had left before he needed to get his uniform on, I asked him to tell me what time it was. He told me, and then said: "Mom, don't I have Taekwondo today? How many more minutes do I have?" Honestly, I was shocked. I'm so used to doing a Countdown, and I'm only now becoming aware that that plan is really annoying perhaps not effective! Anyway, I gave him the answer, and when it was time for him to get ready, he did! Amazing.

Morgan was trying to open a package of pepperoni and was having trouble. Actually, she was screaming her head off. So I said something like, "What do you think you could do?" I let her continue to scream and struggle for a minute more. Then she calmed down and asked for help in a nice manner.

Now this tool will probably not work for very young ones. Sean can't understand what I mean if I say "Can you think of a way to reach that toy?" But I know that it will not be very long before he can understand such words. So I will use this with him, even now. The difference is that I will do the problem-solving for him, out loud. "Oh, what if you move this truck out of the way? Now you can reach the toy you wanted!" (I'm pretty sure that by the time a child is 15-18 months old, he can begin solving basic problems. I once saw my friend's 17 month old solve a disagreement with his brother over sharing a pillow by standing up and going upstairs to find another pillow.)

What are some of your favorite Curiosity Questions? A few of mine are:

  • "Can you think of another way to say that?"
  • "What do you think you could do to solve the problem?"
  • "Any ideas?"
  • "What do we need to have before we leave the house?" (Answer: Epi-pens)
  • "What else do we need to have before going to [name activity]?

I'll check in later in the week to let you know how I'm doing. In the meantime, I'd love some suggestions for other Curiosity Questions, if you have them.


Deb said...

"What's your reasoning?"

This works great both when kids have said something true, and when they've made a mistake and come to an incorrect conclusion.

When they've said something insightful, this lets them consciously trace the steps they've taken, both reinforcing the logic and letting them take additional pleasure in their successful thinking.

When they've said something false, they get to re-examine their own thinking. There's usually no need for me to point out an error in that case; they discover it on their own while tracing that reasoning chain, and they usually easily find a way to revise the conclusion, all on their own.

Wendy Hawksley said...

Hmmm, interesting idea. Since we are big on teaching our child HOW to think versus WHAT to think, I'm going to have to keep this in mind. Great topic.