Use open-ended questions to open dialog

Staff Writer
Columbus Parent

One way to create such a climate is to use open-ended questions regularly. An open-ended question prompts the child to answer in more than one-word responses. For example, take the following closed-ended questions and see how easily they can be turned into more interactive questions:

So why is this important? It builds trust and rapport, helps with problem solving, and allows your child to vent when things aren't going so well. The key is to first ask important questions using the open-ended method, then remain quiet and listen closely to what your child says. Unfortunately, some parents do a good job of using open-ended questions, but fail when it comes to allowing their child ample time to respond.

Here are some quick pointers on how you can improve communication with your child:

  • Whenever possible, use open-ended questions when inquiring about your child's practices and games.
  • After you ask an open-ended question, stop talking and give your child ample time to think through and respond to your question fully (this means allowing her to finish, too!).
  • As your child responds to your questions, maintain a positive, healthy body language that allows for an open atmosphere. Head nods and "uh-hmms" can show you are tuned in.
  • If you are unclear about what your child is saying, or if you need additional information, try clarifying, summarizing, or paraphrasing.
  • When it comes to youth sports, especially with some of the inherent risks involved (i.e. sports burnout, supplement abuse, etc.) it's important to develop strong communication skills with your child. Open-ended questions will help you build stronger relationships and help you prevent (or quickly address) potential problems your child may be experiencing.

More resources

Read Dr. Stankovich's new book, Sports Success 360! The book gives coaches, parents and student athletes life strategies for performance and character development.

Dr. Chris Stankovich offers individual athletic counseling and team/league seminars. Read Dr. Stankovich's new book, Sports Success 360. The book gives coaches, parents and student athletes life strategies for performance and character development. Visit drstankovich.com for more details.