Parent: “Roy, all I get are one word answers when I ask ‘How’s your day?'”
Roy: “Let me guess…it is ‘fine’, ‘ok’, or if its a middle school boy “some unintelligible grunting noise”?
Parent: (wide eyed) “EXACTLY, and it’s so frustrating.”
Roy: “I hear ya. What other questions have you tried?”
Parent: “How was school? How was your day? Hi-Low?
Roy: “Try this…it will feel awkward at first but try it anyway. Ask “On a scale of 1-10 with 10 being your best day ever and 1 being your worst day ever, how was your day”
Roy: “Here’s what they’re going to say on most days: ‘Five'”
Parent: (laughing) “Probably so…”
Roy: “Then ask them this: ‘What would have made it an 8?’ then wait for them to answer. Half of the time they’s say/grunt “I dunno…’ When you hear that, hear this instead “That’s a hard question (which it is for a preteen and teen). Give me more time to think.’ Then, count to seven slowly and by the time you get to seven, the vast majority of teens will have answered.”
Parent: (nodding) “OK”
Roy: “Then ask this: ‘Why wasn’t it a 2 or a 1?’ Count to seven and wait for the answer”
Parent: “I’ll do it!”
Roy: “Great. Just don’t do it everyday or it will get stale and formulaic and the answers will reflect that.” Mix it up a little bit. The next day, ask “How was your day? and the following ask “what was good about your day?” and so on…Then three days later, ask the 1-10 question again.
This principle is called “scaling.” I first learned this from Dr. Bob McCarty 12 years ago in a youth ministry course and have used it everyday since. Today I understand why this works so well and have added to it, modified it and added other questions that are based on the same principle, which is–children and most teens do not have the capacity to think abstractly like you. Scaling makes abstract questions doable, and concrete.”
More on this principle tomorrow, or the day after. And way more in my book, What Teens Want You to Know (but don’t tell you).
Thanks to everyone who reads my meanderings. I appreciate you!