Ask, Don’t Tell
On a commute home this past week, I caught the end of an interview with James E. Ryan, author of Wait, What? The Dean of Harvard Graduate School of Education’s book thesis is simple: good questions spark curiosity, and thus better connection between people. Whether at work, home, school, or alone, more asking inspires deeper understanding.
I’ll get around to reading his book, I promise, but in the meantime, I took what I learned from the short segment and applied it with my most curious customer—my three-year-old son.
Like most toddlers, he’s hell-bent on getting his way most of the time. Getting him and my younger son to leave a place—for example, a super-fun play structure at the zoo—can be agonizing.
And so, instead of barking some threat of never getting a churro again (after wholly ignored five, three, and one-minute warnings) I said, “I wonder what’s over there? Can you show me?”
He bolted away from the scene, and brought me with him, excited to show me what I was missing at the next place. Little bro followed.
I’ve been asking him all kinds of questions since, and so far, this little method has been working.
What does it mean when you brother cries like that?
What will happen if you don’t eat your dinner?
If you keep standing up there, what could happen?
I’ll watch him stop and think, then respond with a genuine, mindful answer. He even said, “I wonder” when he started a sentence.
My question to you, fellow father, is will you try this method with you children? Do you do it already? If you do, does it work? I certainly hope so. I’ve been asking myself how to do this fatherhood thing better every day, and at last, I feel like I’m on to something.
Photo credit: Robert Couse-Baker.