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Stop Asking ‘Innocent Questions’. Try Asking These Instead.

questions

Parent Coach for Moms of Teens: Fern Weis

Innocent questions are rarely innocent. They come with hopes, expectations, and good intentions. You have an ulterior motive, and you may not be aware of it.

Have you asked an ‘innocent question’ and your teen took it the wrong way? Were they defensive, angry, and then on the offensive? Were you on the receiving end of one and felt attacked?

Questions Seen By Teens:

Your teen often sees these questions as critical or judgmental. They come across as nagging and checking in on them… checking in as in “Has this been done yet? What aren’t you telling me? I’m fishing for information.”

“Our words say one thing, while they may be hearing.”

This is you, their parent, pushing an agenda and worrying (and sometimes with good cause.) They believe you don’t have confidence in them and that you need to micromanage. And then you answer with, “I was just asking a question.”

Familiar Responses Heard From Teens: 

Let’s say you ask about an essay that is waiting to be written. Your words say one thing, while they may be hearing, “I haven’t seen you doing the work. I need to know what you’ve done, not done, plan to do and when, so I can remind you ten times to get a move on. Then I’ll stop worrying about you and your future.” Can you relate?

  • “You’re overreacting.”
  • “Enough, stop nagging.”
  • “I thought I had this under control. Is there something I need to worry about?”
  • “This is why I don’t tell you anything!”

And then you get no information at all, just an annoyed or depressed teen.

If You Must Give Reminders, Try These On For Size:

  • Statement of Fact: I noticed you’re avoiding/having trouble starting that essay.
  • Helpful Questions:
    • What would be helpful for you?
    • Who could you ask for help?
    • Getting started can be hard. Is that where you’re stuck?
    • Has this happened before? How did you get through it?

Our kids need us to take the lead in helping them become more self-aware. When they understand what works for them, they become effective problem-solvers. Your answers may not be right ones for them.

Change innocent questions into open-ended, other-centered questions and watch everything change.

Fern Weis

About the Author:

Fern Weis is a Parent Empowerment Coach for Moms of Teens and a Family Recovery Coach. She’s also a wife, former middle school teacher, and the parent of two adult children who taught her more about herself than she ever could have imagined.  

Fern partners with moms of teens and young adults, privately and in groups. She helps them grow their confidence to build strong relationships and emotionally healthier kids who become successful adults. She knows first-hand that when parents do the work, the possibilities for change are limitless; that it’s never too late to start; and you don’t have to do it alone. Learn more about Fern at www.fernweis.com.

8 thoughts on “Stop Asking ‘Innocent Questions’. Try Asking These Instead.

  1. Marijke says:

    You are so right and I recognise this on many occasions. It doesn’t stop when they get older. My youngest is 22 in August and already living 3 years by herself but still she reacts like that.

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