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Teaching with Questions - Issue 219
September 30, 2011
Hi there! ....

This week I spent some time looking at our afternoon habits. I initially thought we would have to revamp the whole afternoon but after careful observation I realised that there is only one aspect we need to lift our game with (and that is our reading time – it has slipped into being very spasmodic). This process reminded me that so often we think everything is not working and we despair – but in reality only one thing is not working and that isn’t near so overwhelming. So if you feel things are out of control, that nothing is working, then can I encourage you to take careful consideration and observation, even take notes, of what really happens over a course of a week or so, and then with objective data in front of you – start to assess where the real problems lay. Then address one problem at a time.

Live life with your kids!

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Teaching with Questions

When we have something for our children to learn it is easy to slip into lecture mode. A lecture is where I have all the answers and regardless of where my child is at I will deliver. Most times our children turn off when we get into lecture mode – whether we are lecturing information or moral truth. Lecturing is not a relational based teaching method. There has to be a better way.

Jesus gave us an excellent model to follow:

  • As the teacher he knew what truth he wanted his followers to understand
  • He delivered the truth in a way that they could connect with
  • He asked them leading questions so they could process what he had said
  • He answered their questions – sometimes with another question, sometimes with words of wisdom
  • He corrected their thinking (helped them line up their thinking with the Word of God)
  • He left them knowing what was true

I think understanding this progression is really important for us to maintain teaching from a biblical perspective. Though we want to generate dialogue with our children we want to keep true to our responsibility of teaching and training. This doesn’t mean we are to be the teacher/lecturer, but rather we can invite our children to enter a conversation and yet leave them at the end with no doubt what you believe to be true.

We need to have it very clear in our mind that there is a difference between a lecture and a conversation, or a debate and a dialogue. True conversation happens when there is respect for everyone’s opinion and understandings. Conversation happens when everyone present is involved. It is very much an exchange of ideas. Monologue or a lecture on the other hand is very one sided, and often talks down to the other person. A debate though involves more than one person often quickly slips into argument and becomes more about logic and being right than the heart.

This may be a mind shift for some parents. We come to teaching our children with an attitude that says we know what they need to know so therefore we need to teach them. And there is a degree of truth in that – God told us to teach our children. But if we can get along side of them, treat them and their understandings with respect we will go a lot further in making a mark on their hearts than if we just dump information on them. This is particularly true for preteens and teenagers.

One of the key tools I use with our children to generate conversation is asking questions. By carefully asking pointed and intentional questions

  • I can help my children make connections with and build on truths they already know
  • I can intrigue them to want to know more
  • I can help them clarify or establish their beliefs
  • I can encourage their thinking process and
  • I can help them see the consequences of their beliefs or actions.

In remembering that the purpose of a conversation is to help them learn a truth a conversation can spring from something they’ve seen, heard, or done. I want my children to understand what God would have to say about any issue or activity. I want them to be able to think through what is right and why it is right. If I am deliberate my questions can guide them in coming to conclusions about these things. If their thinking proves unbiblical, or incomplete then it is up to me to help them see the biblical truth clearly - not as a lecture, but rather sharing a truth as I see it. Conversationally.

As our children grow older is it so important for them to be able to think through things for themselves. It is not acceptable for them to say “mum told me so”. Ultimately, they need to be able to know that they have thought about it and that they came to a conclusion and therefore they believe. Our job is to present the truths to them, allow them to discuss it and ask questions and grow in their understanding. Eventually they will own the truth in their own heart.

Here are some questions that get a discussion started:

  • What do you think about ...?
  • Why do you think that?
  • What do you mean by …?
  • Do you know what the Bible says about ...?
  • What are the implications/consequences of believing ...?
  • Can you explain that to me?
  • What difference does it make to believe … ?
  • Is that true?
  • How could we find out if it is true?
  • What would someone who disagrees say?
  • How would you answer them? (the person who disagrees)
  • Does this remind you of something? (I often say this if it reminds me of something!)
Please keep in mind that these questions are not suitable for every age – find the appropriate ones for the ages of the children you are talking to. Help them grow towards being able to answer the others.

Over the next month I’m going to be blogging about conversations I’ve had (or want to have) with my children. These topics are truths that have shaped Peters and my heart and we hope that they will shape our children’s lives too. But truth is never transferred by osmosis – truth is transferred by discipleship. As Deut 6 says, we (parents) are to know God’s word, to have it in our own hearts and then we are to talk about it throughout our day with our kids. Talk, talk, talk!!

Have you thought about the truths that you really want your children to understand? Join me for 31 days of heart conversation.

I blog during the week over at Live life with your Kids Blog. This week I posted:

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Until next week

Belinda Letchford
Living life with her kids in Australia!

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