Ask, Don’t Tell

What do our children need? This is a very powerful question. Since I have pondered it many times throughout a day, week, month and year, I can tell you that each child needs something different from us as their parents, no matter their age.

My older daughter has a beautiful baby. I would love a time to offer my two cents on how to raise a child. However, I am not the mother of this child. She is. So navigating the course to take in this new role (grandparent) can be tough. What is too much, what is not enough, and what is just right is a hard thing to gauge.

This is my recipe for figuring out the proper amount, what is just right. When something comes up that I have thoughts on, I ask questions. For example, my daughter made a bold statement about helping Maya stop using a pacifier. Instead of adding my thoughts, I investigated hers.   I asked questions like why this was important to her, what made her feel like she wanted to do this, how she was going about it and how it was working. This recipe, asking questions rather than unloading your opinions, helps to build connection, relationship, communication, and authenticity. She was sharing as I was asking and attentively listening.

The second thing that came up was food. How do we know what we should be feeding our little ones from a health standpoint? What about how much to feed a child? It is hard enough to know what we adults should be eating to maintain our health these days. She is the expert on her daughter because she is with her day in and day out. Is it right for me to say what is the best way to focus on food? Probably not. Again, in order to find the proper balance, I ask some well-constructed questions that open the conversation. I don’t impart judgment or criticism, just understanding, and acceptance. What I have learned is beautiful. My daughter, who is a mother herself, has the tools, capabilities, knowledge, and foresight to navigate through these important issues and topics in raising her daughter.

Had I done it a different way, the results (the recipe) would have come out entirely different. When we tell and instruct, providing our two cents, we dominate and can come across as knowing more or better than the other. What happens to our communication and relationship in the process? Over time, it will weaken. Our children want our support and our compassion in a way that supports them, not us, in a way that shows them that we believe in them and their abilities. They need to feel empowered to move forward on their journey and ability to be able to make decisions on their own. Like a recipe, if we add the wrong ingredient – it will look and taste entirely different.

Not only does this apply to adult children, it applies to all children. When we give all kids the autonomy to figure things out, we are allowing them to grow and thrive.

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