The Question to Ask Your Son to Get Him to Talk
It works almost every time.
It starts early. Monosyllable responses of “yes” or “no” and then the dreaded whale: “I don’t know.” We’ve all been there, wanting to tease out what’s on our children’s minds. This can happen with any kid, but it can be a special problem with sons. They tend to turtle up.
Asking open-ended questions like “What’s on your mind?” can help. But often, he’ll just say, “nothing.” Back to square one.
Here’s what I’ve had the most success with. “Can you teach me how to…” and then insert whatever it is he likes to do. The alternative is “Tell me more about…” something he likes to do, which can also work, but the former question requires action. And boys, and men, prefer action.
“Can you teach me how to play Minecraft?”
“Can you teach me how you build courses on Super Mario Maker?”
“Can you teach me that game you were playing outside yesterday?”
I’ve found this works about 90% of the time. Not only will he be excited to teach you something, he’ll be more willing to open up to you about other things as well. He’ll also start asking you questions.
There is something powerful about a father and his son engaged in an action, working with their hands and bodies, even if that action is just a video game. Through action, you will dance around the edges of more important topics, forming contours of conversation, and eventually, you’ll land on something profound.
There’s a reason most men hate traditional therapy, but they’ll open up to someone while they shoot basketball hoops together. There’s a reason business deals between men are done on the golf course.
Lean into it. Enter into your son’s world and interests. He’ll follow you back out.
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