You pick your child up from school and start to drive. Like clockwork (your child knows its coming), you ask, “What did you do in school today?” Or if you are especially enlightened, you will ask “What did you learn today?” To which you hear in the back seat a light murmur, prompting you to repeat the question with more earnest. You then hear the unenthused reply, “Dunno.”
You look in the rearview mirror, expecting to see a teenager looking back at you. Nope, its a preschooler. And then your mind starts running, “Why in tarnation am I paying money for preschool, when I am not even sure he is learning anything…”
Well, lets take another layer off of the onion. Here is even a more predictable question that your child can count on: Scenario– your son for the 200th time (this week) has taken a toy away from his little sister. She starts screaming at the perfect frequency that causes your blood to boil. You pull your son aside and ask… “Why did you take that toy from your sister?”
Truthfully, I have asked my son the “Why” interrogation at least 293 times. And he has faithfully provided one of three answers: 1)silence, 2) shoulder shrug 3) or should he feel especially talkative, I will get “dunno.” And you would think after 292 times I would learn to change my question. Nope. I will ask it again tomorrow.
Have you ever thought the problem is with the question? We are asking an open-ended, critical analysis question of a “concrete” thinker.
Proverbs 20:5 says “the ways of human hearts are like deep waters, and wise is the one who can draw them out.” What questions are the right buckets that will draw the deep waters out of our children, allowing us to see into their hearts?
Well, my wife and I are reading Ted Tripp’s book “Shepherding a Child’s Heart” for the umpteenth time. And he provides 5 questions to ask your children after they have disobeyed, allowing you to uncover what is really going on in their heart. And note: he does not ask “Why?”
- What was going on? This question is designed to simply get a sense of what was going on. Don’t worry about biases. It’s impossible to recount something without biases. Your child does it. You do it.
- What were you thinking/feeling as it was happening? This question gets after the heart. You need to understand that no matter where you are, no matter what the situation is, your heart is constantly operating…you’re always interpreting, always worshipping, always desiring or wanting something.
- What did you do in response? This goes after words and behavior. With this question we’re teaching our children (and ourselves for that matter) that the behavior and words that came out in the situation were not formed by the situation but by how my heart reacted to the situation. This is very important!
- What were you seeking to accomplish? This question gets after motives, goals, purposes, etc. What we’ve done is bracketed behavior with the thoughts and motives, interpretations, desires of the heart…Hebrews 4:12-13 – the heart is always thinking and always desiring. Your behavior is always the result of what you’re thinking and what you desire?
- What was the result? This question gets after consequences.