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Questions to Ask Kids that Build Communication

Updated on March 22, 2013

Ask the Right Questions

How many times have you asked your child a question and then received an answer that was less then satisfying. It is common for many parents to get those one word answers like yah, nah, or ok. The word good is also pretty popular in the vocabulary of most children. How was your day? Good. Fortunately, the short phrases and one word answers that exist in the dialogue of children can be improved by asking quality questions that promote thinking. In the example above, when children answer with the word good, it helps to rephrase the question and require them to be more specific. Instead, they could be asked to tell about the most interesting part of their day. This approach will help them to expand their answer and steer them away from short vague responses. Conversation skills are developed when care is taken to ask questions that guide children to think more deeply.

The first point to remember, for generating quality conversation with children, is to stay away from questions that elicit yes or no responses. Did you have a good day? This question is not going to get very much feedback. It is a limited question that eliminates the need for children to expand on their answer. Asking an open-ended question, on the other hand, forces them to provide specific detail and promotes communication. Below are examples of how to phrase questions to be open-ended, for the purpose of improving the responses children give.

Limited Questions
Open-Ended Questions
How did you do on your test today?
What parts of your test do you feel you did well on?
Did you play well in your hockey game?
What nice plays did you make in your game today?
Are you going to the school dance?
What are your thoughts on going to the school dance?

Types of Questions that Promote Communication

Observe the chart on the right. It is easy to see how limited questions will inhibit the responses in children and begin a dialogue that only ends quickly. Open-ended questions, on the other hand, encourage children to give answers that contain greater detail. This facilitates richer conversations by requiring them to think more deeply about what they are going to say.

Fine Tune Your Questions

Below is a chart of descriptors to assist parents and educators in asking quality questions. These open-ended questions attempt to improve the responses children make by getting them to focus their thinking in key areas. In our efforts to build communication in children it is important to remember that it is a process and it takes time for children to build their expression and verbal skills.

Possible Questions
Helps children to think more deeply about a topic.
What factors make this a difficult problem? What are some of the difficulties we need to deal with?
Extends the child's range of opinions and ideas.
Do we need to look at this from another perspective? Are there another things that need to be considered?
Leaves no room for indecision.
Could you be more specific? Could you give more details?
Clarifies any ambiguity
Could you express that in another way? Could you give me an example?
Determines important points of information.
What is the most important thing to consider? What is the big issue here?
Assists children to use reason and common sense.
How does this relate to the problem? How is that connected to the question?
Guides children to conclusions that make sense.
Does all this really make sense together? Does that follow from what you said?

Asking Good Questions Takes Practice

Not all parents have the problem of getting their children to talk but all children will benefit from questions that help them improve their responses. For those children who have difficulty expressing their ideas, open-ended questions are critical. Don't expect, however, that by asking one good question you will open the verbal flood gates. It takes time and practice for some children to feel comfortable sharing answers. Create opportunities to build positive communication by playing games and toys together. In the beginning, it may be necessary to make suggestions, for some children, to assist their responses but ultimately we want our children to contribute to the conversation. Give them time to think. It is ok for them to pause and collect their thoughts. After all, there are a lot of possible answers to an open-ended question!


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      george 5 years ago

      Not just questions--talk to the kids like you talk to your friends. They will open-up to you and treat you like a friend too.

    • Sturgeonl profile image

      Sturgeonl 6 years ago

      Thanks for the supportive feedback Koffeeklatch Gals!

    • KoffeeKlatch Gals profile image

      Susan Haze 6 years ago from Sunny Florida

      Teriffic hub. Communication between a parent and a child is so important. It is all too easy to get caught up in questions that allow the child to answer with one syllable words. Great advice. Up, useful, and interesting.

    • Sturgeonl profile image

      Sturgeonl 6 years ago

      I agree not only do kids need to learn good communication but we parents need practice too. When there is good communication it does lead to a happier family. Thanks for sharing mcals!

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      mcals71 6 years ago

      Wonderful hub! Not only does communication help parents to get to know their children better, but it also helps children to learn to express themselves, to be more descriptive and creative, and also to reach out to others in a more intelligent and self fulfilling way. Adults, as well as children need to be educated on the art and benefits of good communication. A family that communicates is a happier family. Thank you so much for bringing this matter to light. Knowing how to effectively rephrase a question to promote communication is going to help me a lot with my three year old grandchildren, thanks to you. Voted awesome and interesting.

    • eddiecarrara profile image

      Eddie Carrara 6 years ago from New Hampshire

      Hello sturgeonl, welcome to Hubpages!

      When I come home from work, we all sit down for dinner and I would ask that magical question to my kids, "so, what was the best part of your day?" it really made a difference compared to the usual question "what did you guys do today?" The answer was always,"nothing" lol. It really does make a difference if you ask thought provoking question. Good hub, voted up and useful.

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      kelleyward 6 years ago

      Welcome to Hubpages! I really enjoyed reading your hub! I especially like the graphs you provided on how we can use more open ended questions to encourage communication. Thanks !

    • Seeker7 profile image

      Helen Murphy Howell 6 years ago from Fife, Scotland

      Great hub! Very useful for new and experienced parents.

    • jennjenn519 profile image

      jennjenn519 6 years ago from Cocoa, Fl

      I agree! The most common answer I get is "I don't know"

    • shea duane profile image

      shea duane 6 years ago from new jersey

      Great hub! It's important to get kids to talk to mom and dad.