“Curiosity is lying in wait for every secret.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
My kids, like most kids, have big dreams. Who else puts “Make a new dog breed” on their “to do” list?
Every day I’m fielding questions such as, “Why can’t everyone have a house to live in?” or “Do you think I could write a newspaper for the neighborhood?” or “Can I go to Italy?” and, of course, “Can I get an iTouch?”
My default mode is to answer questions and explain the “real” world to my kids. I want them to think through their questions and have enough data so they know about homelessness, the demise of newspapers, and the expense of airline tickets. (I ignore the iTouch question.) They need to have their expectations “managed” about what they can and can’t do, right?
I hope I’m not alone in being a killjoy; usually I don’t realize how unimaginative I’m being until I see how others handle these conversations.
For instance, my husband usually returns their questions with questions of his own. For example, he might rift with them:
- Why do you think there are homeless people? How does that make you feel? How can we help?
- What would you want to write in your paper? How long would it be? Would you give it away or sell the paper?
- What’s in Italy? What would you do when you’re there? Are you going to learn to speak Italian?
- Do you have the money to buy an iTouch? Do you think money grows on trees? (He doesn’t say this, of course, but I wish he would!)
My sister-in-law, an elementary school teacher who clearly has her techniques down cold, typically turns the topic back on the kids and says, “I don’t know, what do YOU think?” no matter the question.
Whichever approach is used, when you stop ANSWERING and start ASKING questions instead, you learn way more about your children than you can even imagine.
You learn that homeless people are sad about not having a place to put their toothbrush. You discover that neighborhood newspapers should be all drawings from the kids (preferably about horses or Moshlings). You also discover that Italy is full of great race cars (per Cars 2 fame). Those are the fun tidbits, but you can also learn much more.
But don’t take my word for it, try it yourself!
What’s one of your favorite questions to ask?