As parents, we have heard this as an answer from our children so many times that we have lost count. Why exactly do children give this noncomital answer when parents or adults ask them a question. The reason of course is that kids learn at a very early age that if they say, “I don’t know” or “I am not sure” that they are less likely to get into trouble. When parents are asking questions of their children, they are usually doing so in an attempt to catch them in a lie or are in “attack mode” and kids are aware of this and will give them the safest response that they can give, “I don’t know.” Children constantly have to engage in conversations with adults that are more mature and have a deeper level of thought and children are often scared that they will be penalized if they offer up the wrong or incorrect response.
How do we as parents and as teachers correct this punitive system of correcting our children and ask questions and have a dialogue with our children that is more positive than negative.
The steps to correct this problem are as follows:
1.) Talk to your children with love and respect, even if you are really angry at them
2.) Ask them questions such as What? Where? Why?, these questions do not interrogate them, rather they invite them to have a discussion and it shows them you are really interested in what they have to say and their opinions.
3.) Avoid asking questions such as, “when are you going to?” How come you can’t?, Are you? Why not? Did you? These questions sound like the Spanish Inquisition! When you ask questions in this frame of mind you are automatically putting your child on the defensive and you are going to get a defensive or oppositional answer or not an answer at all.
4.) The key is ATTITUDE! Convey to your child/teenager in your communications that you are truly interested. This is to not to say that you are going to agree with each other or that your teen is going to get their way. You are still the parent after all and you are in charge of things.
Have a dialogue with your kids that is open; honest that conveys that you are open to their view point and are interested in what they have to say. We want to affirm their importance as individuals and offer up acceptance of them as people. Once we are able to achieve this, we will be able to get a definitive answer when we ask a question.