Have you ever had the experience of telling someone exactly what to do only to find out when you check back in that the task has not been completed in the way you outlined? Have you ever asked a child to clean his/her bedroom only to find that they have simply moved the mess around rather than taking the time to organize the items and put them away? Have you then directed them to pick up the socks, the pillows and the papers strewn all around, only to come back and see the shoes exactly where they were the last time you were there and the child says emphatically, “You didn’t tell me to pick up the shoes!” When we give directives and then specify each action that is to be taken we are practicing “direct and tell”. The downside of this method is that young people ultimately do not accept responsibility or ownership for what is or is not being accomplished.
The opposite of “direct and tell” is asking questions and soliciting from the other person what they believe should be done and what they are capable of accomplishing. For example, instead of telling someone to “Clean up your room”, we could ask the question, “What do you think needs to happen so this room will be clean?” When we ask this question we are clearly communicating to youth that we expect them to take an appropriate action to make the room clean. When we establish agreements we are entering into a pact that states we agree these things are important and will be accomplished. Then if we have to ask a question we can ask that question about whether or not we are honoring the agreements we have made.
School-day learning is focusing more and more on questioning to connect as youth are asked to consider not only a “right answer” but why they selected the answer they did. They are asking questions and answering questions, and thus making connections to their everyday life and circumstances. They can understand the relevance and the meaningfulness of the action they just took when the connection has been clear.
At Consult 4 Kids we have several written and virtual opportunities for people to learn more about the art of asking questions. Check with us by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or calling us at (661) 322-4347. Together we can ensure high quality programs for youth.