If you’re like most dads, you want clear, specific, practical, action-oriented ideas that work to connect with your kid’s heart. I hear you and have something to share with you today that you’re going to love: three questions to ask your child.
But first, here’s a few thoughts to set the stage for the conversation you’ll be having with her.
3 Questions a Dad Should Ask His Kids
Since the launch of the book Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, I’ve been using John Gray’s terminology to describe my awareness that I, as a woman, live on Venus and you, Dad, live on Mars. I’ve found that this creative terminology helps to explain something we all know:
As men and women, we often miss each other’s intent and meaning in our communication because we speak two very different languages. I’ve actually been planet hopping for over a decade, and the more traveling I do between our respective spheres, the more I’ve sought to transport observations I’ve made from my planet to yours…and vice versa.
One of the observations I’ve collected is something that I’ve noticed about many men. Essentially, it’s that you are often motivated by crisis or need. Stated otherwise: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. To illustrate, rather than focus on you as men, I’ll highlight an ordeal that my mom lived through.
When she was almost 80 years old, she was still working as an RN at the VA (Veterans Affairs). And being the vibrant and active woman that she was then, she typically walked an hour a day, five or six days a week. And though she began noticing a slight shortness of breath for about a year, she thought it was just part of the aging process and downplayed it.
But on one particular Monday, her symptoms intensified, and this started the fastball rolling when my dad rushed her to the ER that evening. Four days later she had emergency open heart surgery. Her surgeon said he’d performed 14,000 heart surgeries during his career and had never seen an aortic valve so calcified—86%! Yes, it’s a miracle that she survived, and thankfully she is still thriving today, six years later.
Here was the question we all asked back then: How could a woman who was very active and in seemingly fine health have such a huge blockage to her heart without any awareness?
Answer: Things had gradually been taking place in her body such that she had acclimated to the changes over time. And because there hadn’t been a crisis, there was no motivation to explore the apparent minor signs and symptoms that were signaling to her that there was a problem. A very serious problem.
Reality suddenly became clear when the crisis arose. And it was the crisis that changed everything.
We all agreed that it would have been so much better and wiser had she tuned into the warning signs before it got to the desperation-emergency-almost-lost-her point.
Here’s the reason I’m sharing this story with you today: to highlight that sometimes it’s the same way with your kids.
It may seem like things are fine. But what if more is going on under the surface?
Why not take time now to tune in by taking steps to connect with her rather than risking the potential of emergency treatment down the road? At that desperation point it’s ten times harder to get a handle on things.
Here are three questions you can ask your kids today:
- How am I doing as your dad overall?
- On a 0 to 10 scale, what rating would you give me right now as your dad (with 10 being the best, 0 being the worst)?
- What can I work on to be a better dad to you?
It may be scary to ask these deeper questions, but I challenge you to do it anyway. And if your kids give you a high score and say there’s no room for improvement, perhaps you could offer one idea that you believe would “up your game” so you are more engaged as her father.
A version of this post originally appeared over at Dr. Michelle Watson Canfield’s blog.