Asking reflective questions is the key ingredient to making interactions with youth less stressful. Whether you are a parent, teacher, or someone who interacts with children on a regular basis, you’ll find that reflective questions reduce tension, defuse frustrating situations, and promote responsible thinking in youth.
Asking reflective questions becomes easier with practice. Initially, when you decide to embark on this path, the process can seem difficult. Some teachers and parents actually make a chart of the reflective questions offered in the book, Discipline Without Stress (p. 19-20). They carry the list of questions with them and pull them out to review when the need arises. Remember, it doesn’t hurt for there to be a pause (as you formulate a question) when you’re dealing with a discipline problem. During that pause (while YOU are thinking or glancing at a list) the children are naturally prompted to think about the situation as well.
Another thing to do to make the practice of asking reflective questions easier is to challenge yourself to spend one entire day responding to almost anything a child says with a question. You will find this can help you to develop the habit of “asking” instead of “telling.” So whenever a child makes a comment that requires a response, you simply use a reflective question.
For example, if a child says, “I found a staple; what should I do with it?” you would reply, “What do YOU think would be the best thing to do with it?” Of course they know!
If a child doesn’t know what to do next (because they weren’t listening for directions) you would ask, “Is there anyone in our room who always seems to know what to do? How could asking that person help you?”
If a child says, “That was a really good story!” you would inquire “What was your favorite part?”
If a child leaves a coat on the floor, you would ask, “Do you see anything in the cloakroom that belongs to you?”
This constant practice will get you in the swing of asking reflective questions. You’ll soon find that questions come more easily to you in discipline situations, too. It’s really a case of learning to “bite your tongue.” As teachers (and parents) so accustomed to teaching and telling, it’s hard to avoid blurting out whatever you think of saying. We often try to tell kids the answers to all their problems.
But once you see how effective it is for young people to think of their own solutions, you’ll find it easier to ask questions that get them thinking for themselves.
Give this practice a try for a day and let us know your results in the comments below.