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[Global Conversations] To Activate Children, Ask Them.

To activate children, ask them about their dreams and ambitions. To empower them, consult with them and build their decisions into day-to-day matters.

Photo of Jharkhand Community India [Global Conversations]
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This story was submitted by mobile phone from India as part of the Amplify program's Global Conversations project, an effort to extend the reach of our Zero to Five challenge to communities without reliable access to the internet.

The content was submitted in response a radio program asking parents about their dreams for their children's future. It was originally recorded in Hindi and then translated into English and posted by local volunteers. 

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Sanjeev Kumar from Bhagalpur, Bihar shares:

Your children will learn from what you do. Just as smaller children learn to walk and speak, when children become old enough to think for themselves, they imbibe values from their parents. Before sending your child to any educational institution, make sure they have learnt our values and norms. Children should be trained to be disciplined.

Try to spend time with your children. Fulfill all the daily requirements of your children, like food or clothes. Every child has a dream about what it wants to become in future, which it shares with its parents. If the kids do not share their dreams, parents should definitely ask them about it. Often, these dreams change with age. Parents should never quarrel before their children. Children should not be reprimanded; they should lovingly be made to understand their errors. Be friendly with your children and they will confide in you. Encourage self-dependence in your children by letting them take decisions in day-to-day matters.

Sanjeev highlights the importance of actively engaging children by asking them questions and giving them autonomy to begin making decisions. How might we empower parents to adopt a questioning style when engaging with their children? How might we encourage parents to infuse critical thinking and confidence building exercises in their parenting styles?

We welcome comments from the OpenIDEO community below. Some of the comments below may be translated, recorded and shared with the person who submitted this story. 


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Photo of Catherine Collins

Thanks for sharing Sanjeev. I met with an educator who shared this:
“Follow kids' cues, listen to kids, kids will tell you what they need.” - Kim, Director of a local child care center.

More of her advice is here:

In regard to your question (How might we empower parents to adopt a questioning style when engaging with their children?). One area where we might gain some insight is from facilitating or mentoring. The role of a facilitator seems to be one where participants are asked questions rather than told answers. One where the participants do more talking and wondering.

I wonder what are some of the skills that we have to work with parents on in order to develop this type of questioning style that you talk about?
Perhaps active listening skills, self regulation and self awareness?...

Photo of Steve Bordonaro

Sanjeev mentions parents adopting a questioning style, and Catherine, you mention the role of the parent (adult) "The role of a facilitator seems to be one where participants are asked questions rather than told answers." - These are both nice tie-ins to my post on "The Power of Open-Ended Questions."


There, I provide a link with lots of examples of a facilitator asking open-ended questions for children.

As simple as this seems, I have watched many parents to see if I can observe this style in action, and more times than not, it seems parents will ask an open-ended question, but if the child pauses for too long, the parent steps in and answers for them, in an attempt to model how to answer.

Modeling is indeed important, as Myra mentions below, but I think there is real power in letting the child answer, no matter how long it takes or how "inaccurate" the answer may appear. Answering (or articulating for oneself) is a discovery process, no matter how hap-hazard, it serves a different purpose than that of imitating a modeled answer.

Photo of Bettina Fliegel

HI Steve. I would add that children might not jump in to answer the open ended questions because they are afraid to give the wrong answer. Unfortunately this happens after a kid has experienced a negative feeling around "no, that is wrong." Some of these issues came up during the Creative Confidence Challenge. If you both haven't browsed over there take a look. There were many great posts during research and ideas! I am going to check out your link Steve!
When helping kids with discovery and using a questioning style sometimes it is helpful to guide them to what they might already know about, what resources they can call upon to gain mastery for this situation. In the developing world this might be harder without access to the resources we have here - like if a child can read you might suggest using the internet or a library book at school to look up something, or using art materials to create something to work out a solution to whatever they are "discovering" - draw a picture etc. It would be interesting to ask parents in these communities how they would guide their child with this. Perhaps they would find things out in their everyday world - they would see possibilities for this in that way? (I think that would be awesome actually!) Hope this makes sense. Great conversation!

Thank you Sanjeev for sparking such a stimulating conversation. All the best from New York City!

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