How To Use Open-Ended Questions

open ended question

As adults we are the most significant part of a child’s environment. Whether we are aware of it or not, our words, concerns and emotions are reflected into our children’s world and absorbed at an unconscious level by the child.

We need to choose our words carefully and frame our questions even more so. Inadvertently we can plant ideas with our questions, and redirect or distort our children’s attention and perception.

For example, consider these questions: “How are you feeling? Are you sick? Do you have a stomachache?” Which question is going to get correct feedback?

The open-ended question that requires more than a yes or no answer is more effective in getting accurate information.

Research shows that when asked a ‘closed response’ question, respondees will give a yes answer over 75 percent of the time. Nobody likes to say no.

People avoid saying no if at all possible. We give no answers to avoid self-incrimination or disappointing superiors. We can’t depend on closed response questions for insightful information. It seems to be in our best interests, parent and child, to learn how to ask effective open-ended questions.

Here are some examples of how to change a closed response question to an open-ended question.

Closed: Did you hit your brother?

Open: Why is your brother crying? Tell me what happened.

Closed: Did you make this mess?

Open: What can you tell me about this spilled paint?

Closed: Did you take a bath?

Open: When were you planning on taking a bath?

Closed: Do you like going to school?

Open: What do you think about school? Tell me about school.

Open-ended questions can help give you information to uncover unobvious concerns you might have. Continue the conversation with probing questions using who, what, when, where, how and why.

When you need more than a yes or no answer, use open-ended questions to find out what your child is thinking, feeling or experiencing.

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