Another question that seeks specific information is called a focused question. The question might look like this: “What was happening at five o’clock on Saturday?” Starting with a “what” in a sentence usually opens dialogues.

A third question is called a closed question. This one is almost always answered by yes or no, and the answer may be all too familiar to some parents.

A final question, and one that is discouraged is a leading question. Embedded in the leading question is the answer. It asks for “yes” or “no” answers. A rule of thumb: Don’t ask a question unless it can clarify a situation. Our goal is to create great dialogues with our kids, and avoid the blocks.

The next step is being a great listener and is a prerequisite to having a great dialogue. As parents we may find ourselves either doing all the talking, or all the listening. The balancing act is tough, although with good listening skills, it can be successful. There is a reason we were born with two ears and only one mouth! In order to consider ourselves better-than-average listeners, we must put ourselves in the other’s place.

Most of the time if we give our kids the opportunity to share their perspectives and just listen, we have begun the first step in creating a dialogue. Kids will come back for more. Those once shy, insecure or isolated kids will now feel accepted and open to share without fear of criticism or rejection. Knowing they were heard and not judged on their perspectives they may step forward with self-esteem and willingness. It doesn’t mean that you agree with what their perspective is, but you listened, and that is the key.

A good listener can look at the other person and concentrate on what is being said.

A good listener can push away her or his own worries and fears (at least during the creation of a great dialogue), and be able to react to the ideas and not the person.

A good listener should not conduct a “mental argument” with the child while attempting to dialogue.

A good listener listens to what is not being said (counselors do this all the time).

A good listener does not jump to conclusions or avoids doing it if not in agreement.

A good listener checks for his or her own prejudices and evaluates the facts, not feelings.

A good listener stops talking, as we can’t do talking and listening at the same time and get positive results.

Remember, it is not a win equals win situation if the goal is to always be right. Check out the amazing results in communication when you opt to be wrong once in a while! It also shows a child that communication is about give and take. Creating great parent-child dialogues promote healthy families, and a healthier world for all of us.