One practical tool for parents to use in practising positive discipline is asking “curiosity questions.” This is the process of asking genuine “how” and “what” questions to gain insight into your child’s world and learning to listen closely while drawing forth information rather than constantly directing and reminding.
Curiosity questions help develop self-responsibility, and a sense of capability as children begin to think through their decisions rather than being told what to do.
Through an experiential activity in the course on positive discipline taught at Cayman International School, two participants are asked to alternate reading a list of statements and questions to a third volunteer who is playing “the child.” Afterwards we reflect on how participants were feeling, what they were thinking and what they were deciding about themselves as they heard both statements and questions. By taking the child’s perspective, participants gain new insight into how their words may be received.
This activity brings a new awareness to the way we speak to our children. The aim for parents is to become “asking parents,” as opposed to “telling parents,” in order to develop long-term goals such as responsibility, self-motivation and a belief in personal capability.
Here are some “telling” statements we might say to children followed by an “asking” statement that could lead to the same desired result with a different approach that requires a child to respond with a sense of responsibility:
TELLING: Go brush your teeth!
ASKING: What do you need to
do so your teeth will feel
TELLING: Don’t forget your hat!
ASKING: What do you need to take outside to keep the sun off of your face?
TELLING: Do your homework!
ASKING: What’s your plan for doing your homework?
TELLING: Stop fighting with your brother!
ASKING: How can you and your brother solve this problem?
TELLING: Stop whining!
ASKING: How can we communicate more respectfully?
TELLING: Pick up your toys.
ASKING: What is your responsibility when you are finished playing with your toys?
Cayman International School has adopted the Positive Discipline programme as a school-wide and community initiative. Positive Discipline is an encouragement-based approach to parenting and teaching that provides a practical set of guidelines for children to develop self-discipline, responsibility and positive capabilities and attitudes. Andrea Kilam-Higgo and Philippa Roney are teachers at CIS.