The Subtle Power of Questions: How to Get Kids to Think

The Subtle Power of Questions:  How to Get Kids to Think

The human brain is an amazing organ when it works properly. Developing brains in children are even more amazing! Learning how to stimulate proper brain development in kids is a goal shared in Love and Logic’s collaboration with Dr. Daniel Amen and Amen Clinics.

How can we help our kids learn to think about their decisions? How can we keep ourselves from getting pulled into working harder on their lives than they are? How can we help them become prepared for a world full of decisions and consequences?

As Dr. Amen has pointed out, parents talk too much and need to listen more. We agree and often say, “If you don’t want a mess, say less!” Going a step further, we also believe that you stimulate thinking in young brains by asking questions. Instead of lecturing and commanding, parents should:

Replace statements with questions.

Some of the most powerful moments come when we empower kids by asking them what they plan to do about various situations instead of telling them what they need to do. The implied message we send is, “You are smart. You can come up with the answer.”

On top of that, the human brain has a hard time ignoring the questions it hears. It automatically wants to search for the answers—it just can’t help itself. What a gift we give kids when we get them to think instead of telling them what to do.

A child who is redirected with the question, “Are you sure this is the right place for that behavior?” responds much better than if commanded, “Stop that!” One method invites thinking, the other invites resistance and a battle for control. In either case, we are enticing young brains to do lots of thinking by simply asking questions rather than stating “how it is.”

In this increasingly complex world laden with temptations, it becomes more and more important to teach our kids how to build their mental muscles. Listed below are some quick tips:

  • When your kids ask you for help with something, encourage them to try a bit longer before you jump in to help. The only way to truly learn good thinking skills is by figuring things out on your own.
  • You can encourage your kids to think by asking them as many questions as possible. Example questions include:
    What else might you try?
    What have you seen other people do to solve this problem?
    What would happen if you tried_________?
    Is that something you could learn about in a book, by asking someone, or by looking on the internet?
  • Allow them to mess up. Too frequently we step in and tell kids exactly what to do when we worry that they might be making a mistake. The best way to learn is by making mistakes—allow them to blow it and learn.

Love and Logic that messages must be delivered with empathy. This applies to asking questions as well. So, do your kids’ brains a favor and feed them a steady diet of questions—delivered empathically. In our audio, Shaping Self-Concept: Encouraging Kids to Take Risks and Learn, we teach that kids who are given this gift are far more likely to succeed in school and in life.

Thanks for reading!

Jim and Dr. Charles Fay

Shaping Self-Concept: Encouraging Kids to Take Risks and Learn

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