Asking the Right Questions

by Mary Ann on August 9, 2010

Wendy Watson Nelson

Wendy Watson Nelson is a “creative” cook. In other words she doesn’t use a recipe and is willing to make combinations of foods and spices that others wouldn’t even try. Sometimes her concoctions seem very strange. Her husband could ask her, “Honey, what is this.” Instead he wisely and tactfully asks, “Now honey, if I were at a restaurant and wanted to order this what would we call it?” Wendy used this story in her book Change Your Questions, Change Your Life. I heard about Wendy and her book from a friend who recently told me all about it. Here is what Wendy had to say on her Facebook page about the importance of asking the right questions in life.

“The questions we ask ourselves, others and the Lord significantly influence the kind of lives we create. Questions are powerful. They can motivate or they can demoralize. They can increase our ability to solve problems or they can make situations worse. Some questions actually become the problem while other questions bring about change when everything else has failed.”

I find that a very intriguing statement about the power of questions. I think this is a principle which can apply in any situation.

As parents who are trying to create warm, inviting, enlightening family cultures and raise children of good character, who love people, the world and learning, we can find ourselves discouraged with what we perceive as our lack of progress. We ask questions such as why am I so…, why does he/she always…, why doesn’t he/she ever…, I wonder why I’m so bad at…

What if we changed the questions we ask to something like this, how can this situation benefit me? What growth can come out of what is happening? How can I see this differently? In what ways do I need to change or grow? What am I not understanding? The energy from questions such as these is powerful. They motivate us to move forward, to change, and to grow. They increase the likelihood that we will find answers and make changes.

Instead of “Why am I such a poor mother we might ask “What are my strengths. Who do I know that can help me with my weaknesses?”  Instead of asking “Why am I such a poor father we could ask, “How can I structure my time so that I can be with my family more?”

When we are thinking about our parenting efforts, the feeling in our home or how our children love or don’t love learning we begin to ask lots of questions. Frequently they dwell on our children. Why is he so messy? Why won’t she read? What is wrong with his attitude? Why can’t they see how important this is? How can I get her interested in Math.?

I believe that these may be the wrong questions. I want to refer to a story I told only a few days ago. My friend Leah was thinking and asking why her son was so messy. He had his rocks all over the place all the time. Then she asked a different question. She asked her son “Do you love your rocks.” He answered that he did and she and her children were off on a fabulous learning adventure that has brought great joy to all of them. The rocks are no longer a “mess” to Leah and her son is no longer just “messy”. Asking the right question changed how she saw her son’s rocks and how she saw her son.

Instead of why won’t she read or how can I get her to read we might ask what I can read to her. What stories did I love as a girl? What can I read to her that I know she is interested in? How can I share my love of reading with her? Can you feel how just this little change in the question can dynamically impact a relationship between a parent and a child?

Instead of what is wrong with his attitude we might ask what I am missing here. What am I not understanding? Does my attitude need an adjustment? How can I reach out in love? What is the end result I am seeking in our relationship?

Instead of how can I get her interested in Math we should ask how can I inspire her to want to know more about math.

Do you see that the better questions, those that can lead to resolution, stronger relationships and greater understanding and joy all point inward to ourselves. This week pay attention to the questions that you ask yourself. If you find yourself asking a question that lacks the power to motivate you or increase your ability to solve a problem reword it. Formulate your questions and write them down so that you can visually see them. Make sure they are the “right” questions.

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