September 28, 2015

4 Questions to Ask a Child

Children can be difficult conversation partners.

Sometimes they freeze at any adult attention, twisting themselves into Mommy’s skirt faster than you can say “hello there!” Sometimes they begin eagerly to speak to you, but a friend or a spider redirects their energies and, with a whirl, they disappear. Sometimes, they’ve just woken on the wrong side of the pack n’ play or been forced to eat Brussels sprouts for snack, and you wouldn't get a cheerful word out of them even if you offered them a Blue Razz Blow Pop in exchange.

Children are shy, distractible, irritable, talkative, uncomfortable, and affectionate.  In short, they are pretty much like adults.

And, just like their grown-up counterparts, they want to be asked questions that demonstrate genuine interest in them as people. I’m quite sure that when the little ones were brought to Jesus he looked them in the eyes and asked them the same kind of perceptive questions he asked everyone else who came to him. After all, they belong to the kingdom, too (Matt. 19:14).

So, here are four questions to try on that freckled kid--that image-bearing human being--in the next pew:

1. Instead of: How are you? Try: Tell me what I should know about second grade/youth soccer/Barbies/Minecraft. Kids don’t know how they are. Half the time, I don’t know how I am. Making yourself a learner, allowing the child to be the expert, and inviting him to tell you about a specific part of his life is much more likely to give you insight into his joys and struggles.

2. Instead of: What did you do last week? Try: What did you have for breakfast this morning? Kids can’t remember yesterday, and they can’t remember whether "last week" was really last Wednesday or last February. Asking kids about their breakfast is my favorite non-threatening kid conversation starter. Chances are, if you ask a child what she had for breakfast, she’s also going to tell you what Daddy had and what the dog had and what they all did for fun afterwards.

3. Instead of: How’s school? Try: What is your teacher’s name? or Who are your friends? or What do you play at recess? “School” is too big for children to assess and explain. But they can talk all day about the minute details of their academic life. The kid at Table 3 who threw a temper tantrum and had to be sent to the principal’s office. Five. Times. The teacher who had a bad year in fourth grade herself and who doesn’t want anyone else to have a bad fourth grade year. The soccer games at recess that are totally rigged to favor the sixth graders and the mystery of why the teachers allow it. If you really want to know about school, you just have to ask.

4. Instead of: What are you going to do this week? Try: I’m going to pray for you after I get home. What should I pray for you about? Kids don’t make plans. They don’t remember plans. They don’t know they are going on a beach vacation until the sand squishes between their toes. Instead, ask them what you can pray for. This will tell you what’s important to them—their paper-cut finger, the dent in Mommy’s car, their missing kitten—and it will allow you to demonstrate love.

That’s what we all want, anyway.

More in this series:
4 Questions to Ask a Stay-At-Home-Mom
4 Questions to Ask an Older Woman
4 Questions to Ask College Students
4 Questions to Ask Your Pastor


  1. I love this series on questions to ask others. Very simple and thoughtful!

  2. I agree with Uptown Frog! I've really appreciated these posts, too. Deb Greco

  3. Megan, these are some really helpful ideas. I think I often ask kids "how are you?" ...these are some much better questions that will help the child to really respond!

    I also appreciated your post about questions to ask a SAHM. When we visited Indiana the other weekend I had those questions in mind and asked one of the elder's wives, "Tell me what some of your passions are. What do you really enjoy doing?" The conversation really took off from that point!

  4. Children are shy at first but not after some time


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