If you want to raise kids who care—about others, themselves, and their world—it goes without saying that they need to be recipients of your good care when they are young. The first tip in this new column suggests a simple way to lavish your kids with care: ask questions. You see, one of the best ways to show you care about people is to ask them questions about their lives, and kids are, after all, little people. The goal is to engage your child, show you care, and teach him or her how to be relational.
Sometimes parents ask the same questions over and over, fail to adequately engage their child, and teach diddly-squat about how to enjoy a vibrant relationship. I suggest that you avoid vague questions like, “How was school today?” and ask something more specific like, “What did you do at recess?” My boy is now a teenager and he still comes alive with that question. Avoid any form of interrogation as well. After you ask your thoughtful question, give your child time to answer before you rattle off ten more. Speaking of time, take advantage of those moments in the day when a child is more apt to share. According to Dr. James Dobson, that would be first thing in the morning, right after school, and bedtime.
One question that is worth repeating is, “What was your ‘high’ of the day?” This is part of the “High/Low Game,” and as soon as your kids can talk, you’ll want to play it at dinner time. Go around the table, asking each person what the best part of their day was. Then, go around again, asking what their “low” was. Make sure Dad participates too. There is no shortage of lessons that can be learned from this game when everyone plays.
Lastly, every now and then, choose a meaty question—one that communicates your values and gets your kids thinking. When my daughter was just three, it appeared to me, for reasons I will not disclose, that I needed to teach her what it means to be nice. I did my best, then followed up by occasionally asking, “How were you nice to someone today?” Five years later, when I overheard a boy say that my daughter was the nicest girl in the class, I beamed.
There’s a children’s book called, Have You Filled a Bucket Today? The concept is that everyone has an invisible bucket that can be filled or emptied based on what you do for them. A hello, smile, and a kind word would fill someone’s bucket, for example. Once the analogy is understood, the question really is an excellent one. Ask “Have you filled a bucket today?” and watch your kids become more aware of their impact on others and a whole lot more caring.
By Gail Perry Johnston. Gail is the author of The Social Cause Diet and The Wish & The Wonder: Words of Wisdom for Expectant Parents. www.gailperryjohnston.com