Answering a question with a question is one of the most effective approaches a parent (or anyone) can use. Whether in everyday, casual conversation or in a discipline situation, questions are much more effective than telling.
For example, if the young person asks you a question of which you are not sure how to respond (or if you want the young person to give more thought to the subject), put the conversational ball back by asking a question in a non-confrontational way. Some questions to consider are:
- “What do you mean?”
- “What makes you ask that?”
- “What do you think … (the reason is … we should do next … the best option is … etc.)?”
The beauty of this approach is that it immediately gives you something to say, delays any anger that may have been prompted, gives you time to collect your thoughts so you don’t say something you will regret, and serves as an intelligent response.
It also prompts the other person to give additional thought to the subject, encourages self-reflection, and makes them feel important in the discussion. It fosters a two-way, collaborative conversation rather than a one-way, static monologue. Even better, when young people feel engaged in the conversation and that they have a say in any resulting decisions that may ensue, you’re laying the foundation for responsibility, which fosters self-discipline.
In any situation, a little questioning goes a long way!