"And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home" Deuteronomy 6:5-6
The world provides us plenty of teaching moments each day. It's our job as parents to use these every once in a while (I say every "once in a while" because our kids would quickly tire of discussion-time every time the tv or radio gets turned on). The key to spring-boarding these good discussions is well-placed questions.
Here are four practical tips helping you ask well-placed questions on the fly.
The first step to helping our kids think through situations is getting them to pause for a moment and simply observe what they just encountered. This can be achieved by merely asking, "What did he just say?"
This simple question nudges young people to actually stop and truly look at something.
As I write this, the top song on iTunes is Lana Del Rey's, High on the Beach. This song is about way Lana is dealing with a breakup...by escaping to the beach to get high. Hence the chorus:
All I wanna do is get high by the beach
When parents hear this song, the first question we can ask is, "What did she just say?"
The next natural question is, "What does she mean?"
Yes. Play dumb.
Basically, we're making our kids actually process the content... maybe even for the first time. This question subtly hints, lyrics matter. We're not merely shrugging our shoulders and saying, "Who cares!" We're taking notice.
Be careful of tone. Approach this question with curiosity, not judgment. The whole purpose of these questions is to open doors, not slam them shut if our kids smell a trap. Our purpose is to steer kids towards truth and let them discover the answers for themselves. A condemnatory attitude will jinx this whole process. So tread carefully!
So simply ask, "What does she mean 'get high by the beach'?"
These questions lead to the next natural step...
Ask them their two cents. Ask:
"How's that going to work out for her?"
"Has she thought this through?"
This provokes our kids to offer insight based on their own personal values. Instead of telling our kids how to think, we are asking them what they think.
Imagine your kids share about a friend who is spreading rumors at school. The temptation would be to get up on our soapbox and begin lecturing about gossip. Resist this temptation. Turn your lecturing to listening... with a well-placed question. Simply ask: Do you think she was right?
And as they're stumbling through their own values, ask them one last question to steer them towards truth...
Direct them towards scripture. Ask: "What does the Bible say about this?"
If our kids don't know the exact chapter and verse, then be ready to direct them. Yes, this requires us to be in the Word ourselves so we know where to point. Don't worry; if you don't know a scripture off hand, don't be afraid to admit, "Let's look this one up later when we get home."
When you open scripture, go through the same line of questioning outlined above.
1. What does that scripture say?
2. What does it mean?
3. How does this apply to our situation?
4. How can we live this out this week?
Well-placed questions open doors to meaningful conversations. If you're like me - prone to lecture - questions help you replace monologue with dialogue.
Article by Jonathan McKee. He is the author of over a dozen books including the brand new More Than Just the Talk. He has over 20 years youth ministry experience and speaks to parents and leaders worldwide, all while providing free resources for youth workers and parents on his websites, TheSource4YM.com and TheSource4Parents.com.