Ask, Don't Tell

Children need us to listen, not constantly instruct.


Ask, Don't Tell

Don’t dictate…

What do our children need? This is a very powerful question. Since I have pondered it many times throughout a day, week, month and year, I can tell you that each child needs something different from us as their parents, no matter their age.

My older daughter has a beautiful baby. I would love at times to offer my two cents on how to raise a child. However, I am not the mother of this child; she is. So navigating the course to take on this new role as a grandparent can be tough. What is too much, what is not enough, and what is just right is a hard thing to gauge.

This is my recipe for figuring out what is just right:  When something comes up that I have thoughts about, I ask questions instead of making statements. For example, my daughter made a bold statement about helping Maya stop using a pacifier. Instead of adding my thoughts, I investigated hers. I asked questions like why this was important to her, what made her feel like she wanted to do this, how she was going about it and how it was working. This recipe — asking questions rather than unloading opinions — helps to build connection, relationship, communication and authenticity. She was sharing as I was asking and attentively listening.

The second thing that came up was food. How do we know what we should be feeding our little ones from a health standpoint? What about how much to feed a child? It is hard enough to know what we as adults should be eating to maintain our health these days. She is the expert on her daughter because she is with her day in and day out. Is it right for me to say what is the best way to focus on food? Probably not. Again, in order to find the proper balance, I ask some well-constructed questions that open the conversation. I don’t impart judgment or criticism, but rather understanding and acceptance. What I have learned is beautiful. My daughter — who is a mother herself — has the tools, capabilities, knowledge and foresight to navigate through these important issues in raising her daughter.

Had I done it a different way, the results (the recipe) would have come out entirely different.  When we tell and instruct, providing our two cents, we can dominate and come across as knowing more or better than the other. What happens to our communication and relationship in the process? Over time, it will weaken. Our children want our support and compassion in a way that supports them (not us) and shows them that we believe in them and their abilities. They need to feel empowered to move forward in their journey and ability to make decisions on their own. Like a recipe, if we add the wrong ingredient — it will look and taste entirely different.

Not only does this apply to adult children, it applies to all children. When we give all kids the autonomy to figure things out, we are allowing them to grow and thrive.

By: Sue DeCaro