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That's a Very Good Question - Issue 331
January 31, 2014
Hi there! ....

This week has been a very productive week. Peter and Daniel continued to fix up the garden and our new sprinklers are all working. Daniel also worked on a movie-making project, read and continues to write stories. Naomi started her studies for the year and in her free time made a teddy bear. Jess started her new TAFE course and Josh continued with his studies. I am in ‘rest’ mode as I have a sore shoulder and doing much more than scrapbooking hurts! LOL. The kids have been wonderful not only doing what needs to be done, but protecting me from myself as I often think just this little thing won’t hurt (but it invariable does!!) We continue to have rainy days – as I type this early Saturday morning, the storm clouds have come over again and it is drizzling rain. We are loving this wet season. One of the good conversations we had this week around the dinner table was addressing family night: What is the purpose of family night? And what kind of things do you kids like to do together? Do you have any plans for family time this year?

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That's a Very Good Question

Some would say that asking a good question is even better than the answer. I’m not so sure about that as I think it is important that we gain wisdom and understanding (which comes from an answer) but asking a good question is certainly an important part. This week Daniel asked, what I thought was a good question: If there was no sin in the world, would we still have computer games? This lead to a conversation about adventure, danger and pain in light of God’s creation and the fall.

It was a good question because it lead to a conversation, it lead to further understanding, which leads to growth!

Our hesitancy to encourage questions often comes from feeling inadequate to give answers. Three things will help here:

  • Understand ourselves how important asking a question is – this should motivate us to get over our hesitancy for the sake of our children’s growth
  • Understand that we don’t always have to give the answers but rather facilitate an interaction to help them find answers
  • Learn how to ask good questions ourselves so that we too are curious and can be interested in the process
  • As a mum I can quickly tire of questions – especially in the preschool age years. They have questions about everything. Often they repeat the same question for no other reason than they like the sound of their own voice (or so it seems to me!!) This is a really good time to start teaching our kids to ask good questions. Good questions have answers. Good questions have answers about something you didn’t know yourself. So instead of mindlessly answering the 50th question for the day, stop and help them think through the issue. Is there really an answer? Do they already know the answer? And then tell them; assure them, that you are available to answer good questions, to help them find out things that they don’t know.

    There are two types of good questions – questions that want to know the facts and questions that want to understand heart issues: beliefs, convictions, choices etc. We need to encourage both.

    Questions can have a simple one word answer or they can lead to a conversation, hearing a person’s heart or knowledge. With Daniel’s question I could easily have given my opinion – yes or no. But in honour of him asking a good question I had to pick it up and interact with him over it. The first thing I said – was a question. We need to move away from a teacher/student interaction, where the teacher knows the answers. Instead we need to move to a conversation based interaction where the teacher/student sparks off each other with questions and ideas and knowledge. And yes, this takes time.

    Four things that will encourage our kids to ask good questions:

    1. Curiosity – curiosity is a desire to learn and an ability to observe the things around you. We can quickly dampen curiosity by being half-heartedly involved and only glancing at the things they are interested in. Alternatively, we can dampen their curiosity by requiring a full on unit-study or visit to the library on the topic. We need to encourage curiosity not kill it.

    2. Exposure to the World – this goes hand in hand with curiosity. If our children* are not experiencing anything, not being challenged in the physical, emotional, spiritual, moral or intellectual areas, they will have no questions. We need to give our children a stimulating environment where there is plenty of opportunity to think and process new things. (Age appropriate of course!)

    3. Acceptance – Asking a question is a vulnerable thing – you are telling someone you don’t know something. A child needs the security of knowing that they won’t be considered foolish for asking a question. There is no wrong question if it comes from a curiosity and desire to learn something.

    4. Time – a child will quickly shut down if their questions are constantly met with ‘not now’, ‘can’t you see I’m busy’, ‘we’ll look into that later’. Though there may well be times when you can’t answer at that moment, they do need to know that their questions are important to you and you will help them find the answers.

    We hear encouragements to parents to talk to their kids, to ask the right questions to get to the kids hearts. But maybe if we encourage them to ask questions we’ll hear their hearts that way as well. Learning to ask good questions is high on our learning objectives for this year. Here are a few activities we’ll be doing:

    • Instead of taking an interesting article to the dinner table, reading it and discussing it I’m going to shuffle it around a bit – I’ll have the article as a backup, but I’ll present an idea, or concept (as per the article) and see what questions the kids have about the topic. We might start with a brainstorm – tell me all you know about this topic, and then ask for questions. As a family we will discuss the questions. I may well introduce the article as a part of our ensuing conversation.
    • After the kids read a book and they come and discuss it with me, I’ll be encouraging them to ask a question about the topic the book addressed. This may then become their writing assignment for that book.
    • After we watch a ‘thinking movie’ instead of asking ‘what did you think about that?’ We’ll brainstorm the topic and have each one come up with a question – maybe someone in the family will be able to answer the question, may be not!
    • Encouraging the kids to ask questions of each other to stimulate conversation around the table. Because we live with each other, we know what happens in each other’s day, so I’ll expect the questions to be deeper than ‘what did you do today?’, ‘what was the best thing that happened to you today?’ etc. These may be good questions to start with but they are also a bit limiting if they are the only questions you ask.
    • When we play “The Art of Conversation” we will use the cards to choose a topic and after the ‘speaker’ answers the card, each person will ask a question of that person in connection with that topic. We enjoy this ‘game’ and to give you an example, I’ve just opened up our box of TOAC and the top question was: Work and Play. What do you think is the difference? Read more about this card game here.

    Do you encourage good questions in your family life?
    If so, how can you encourage your kids to dig deeper?
    If not, how can you start doing so?

    *children/child – this topic is relevant to children of all ages. I am still encouraging my teens and young adults (and myself) to learn to ask good questions, to think about what we are hearing or seeing and ask good questions.

    During the week I blog at Live Life with Your Kids! This week I posted:

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    Restoring the Heart, Mind and Soul of Christmas Do your Christmas celebrations line up with what you believe? Do your celebrations help your children learn more about Jesus?

    This e-book is based on a workshop I held for a couple of years to help families see that Christmas can be a significant tradition in our family life. If we are intentional about how our family celebrates we have the opportunity to use this time to teach our children about Jesus, and his love for each one of us.

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    Until next week

    Belinda Letchford
    Living life with her kids in Australia!

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    Live life with your Kids newsletter is about being a deliberate parent, about enjoying family life and using the opportunities that happen to teach and train your children in righteousness (right living with God). I hope that you will find regular encouragement as you live life with your kids!

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