Open-Ended Questions versus Cross Examination Which is the Best Approach?
Experts recommend asking open-ended questions to stimulate conversation with your kids. The idea is to give your children the space to think, be themselves, and answer of their own accord. Here is a real-life example of a conversation using the open-ended method:
How was school today, son?
When it comes to recalcitrant teens, experts allow, you might need to get a little more creative with some follow-up questions, but remember to keep it open ended. Here’s how it works:
How was your day?
What was the most boring part?
The whole thing was boring.
I propose an entirely different approach: Daily third-degree questioning on every minute detail of which you are even vaguely aware. Using this method, you might uncover an additional crumb or two and start to see the trail. A real-life illustration:
Did you get the audition music from your Band teacher?
I didn’t go to Band today.
Where were you?
At the Geography Bee.
Were you excused from Band to watch the Geography Bee?
I was in the Geography Bee.
You were in a Geography Bee today?
Wow! This is a big surprise! Is there any other news you want to tell me?
Could you please tell me if you are selected for any school-wide activities in the future?
I’m in the Spelling Bee next week.
As you can see, the key is to continue asking questions with increasing levels of specificity. Under no circumstances should you allow your child to leave the room until you are satisfied. For this reason, I recommend that you conduct interrogations in the box with the witness strapped down… errr… make conversation with your child in a moving vehicle while he or she is wearing seatbelt. A final example:
Do you think you’ll go to Homecoming next week?
Who do you think you’ll go with?
A bunch of us are talking about it.
Who is “a bunch of us”?
[names equal number of boys and girls]
Are you going with a particular girl?
Do you know which one?
How do you know this?
She asked me to go with her and I said yes.
Follow up interrogation yielded the young lady’s dress color (purple), preferred flower (rose) and whether my son was expected to match his tie and pocket square (yes and yes). Only the question, “Am I invited to the house where you are meeting to take pictures?” revealed that I was invited to the house where they were meeting to take pictures. No open question would have yielded even a tidbit of this crucial information, no matter how long I silently sat, patiently waiting for my son to share. (Plus, we ain’t got all day here. Basketball practice starts in an hour.)
So. Is there anything else you want to ask me?
Peyton Price is the author of Suburban Haiku: Poetic Dispatches From Behind The Picket Fence. You can find her on Twitter, and adjusting the rear-view mirror to get a better view of the suspect. This post originally appeared on the Huffington Post Parents blog.