Parenting Question for You

I hardly feel like I can ask you, my readers, a question when I have been so unfaithful to post the last couple weeks . . . but here I go anyway.

As you focus on getting to know your children (or someone else’s kids) . . .

  1. what questions do you think about and try to answer? (e.g. what motivates my child? what type of discipline works most effectively? what is his/her love language?)
  2. what do you try to observe? (e.g. how he/she interacts with other children, what school subjects he/she prefers, etc)

-OR- if your children are older, what are the types of things you observed which provided valuable information about them?

I want to be more intentional about getting to know my daughter – really know her: her heart, her personality, her strengths, her weaknesses, her tendencies, etc. – and I would love a list of items or questions I could occassionally peruse and decide to observe over a period of time.

Of course, you’ll see the suggestions in the comments, but I’ll also post them at some point for you to use as a resource as well.



  1. Interesting questions. I suppose the thing I do most is try to listen to her. Try to pay attention to her passions and show that I value them. If she wants to perform a puppet show, or write a story, or draw a picture, or whatever, I show enthusaism for it.

    As for discipline, I’d crave advice on this. Our children are wonderfully creative with words… and often not at all respectful. : )

  2. I have often observed my boys looking for signs of competiveness. Primarily because I am very competitive and always have been. My parents did nothing to “teach” me this skill; it was natural for me. This has intrigued me: Why some people have a fierce determination to win and why others could care less. Therefore, in the classroom, on the soccer field, in the house, in the backyard, (really everywhere) I have tried to note their tendency to compete with others.
    (BTW: My older son is very competitive; I now wonder if I have inadvertently rubbed off on him or if this is natural for him.)

  3. marie

    Simply spending time with them allows us to know our kids. Whether it is just hanging out as a family or with their friends at the pool or doing a job/chore alongside of them, the things you can learn over a span of time by observing and listening can be pretty amazing (and occasionally concerning).

    You can learn alot by seeing what shows your kid is drawn to watch, what books they prefer, what kind of work ethic they have when doing a project or chores, who naturally takes the lead if there is more then one child in the group and who is more peer dependent.

    Honestly, it gets much harder to have this kind of time on a regular basis with older kids because of their jobs and extra-curricular activities at school and church. So we snatch that time when we can, scheduling it and saying “no” to some things they want to do during the week, and then trust God to give us discernment in knowing them and parenting them as they grow up and out of the nest.

    Specifically, we have found that playing games (board games, etc.) can really give some insight in to their character, even as older children. How they respond to winning and losing, are they prone to cheat, are they mouthy with the other players or are they respectful, relaxed or stressed, risk-takers or play it safe, playing to win or just happy to be there, fiercely independent or willing to seek advice/help, etc.

  4. Carol Garborg

    Ask your child a question to which you don’t know the answer. Big questions that cannot be squeezed into a tidy answer. A question asked for no other purpose than to explore.
    I also love to pry preschoolers with the why questions they so often ask me. I might ask them “Why does God love you?” or “Why does winter come after fall instead of the other way around?” Their answers reveal amazing insights into the workings of their active minds.

  5. I don’t have specific questions but these are the things that I have observed of people who have great relationships with their kids…I have tried to implement them as much as possible, but of course ” I do not consider myself to have taken hold of” this whole parenting thing yet! (Phil 3:13)

    Time: spend lots of time together. I am a firm believer that it is very, very difficult to have quality without quantity. When my time gets limited I schedule time in, and stick to my plan. For instance, The Girl and I spend most Friday nights watching movies together, she also crawls into bed with me after the movie (her dad takes her to her bed when he comes to bed later). Something happens to my children at night, when the lights are out and we are lying in bed…its usually when i hear what’s really going on with them.

    We may not even talk about anything specific during that time together, but I feel like I am creating time to allow for opportunity.

    Listen: You wait with great anticipation for them to talk. Your little one is at the age when its cute. There comes a time when it takes a great deal of patience to really listen and hear between all the incessant chattering! I pray for the patience and ability to really hear them, every day.

    Lighten up and laugh: I have found that when i sacrifice time, and really listen, I let go of all the things that cause me to be uptight. Nothing is more relational than experiencing joy (and other healthy emotion) together with my kids. They do make me laugh every day, but sometimes you have to listen to a lot of really bad jokes and random silliness before you hear something that is good for a bottom-of-the-belly, hearty, kind of laugh.

    Those make all the other things worth it!

    Not sure if that answers your questions. But its what I am learning!

  6. D'Ann Mateer

    I have learned to watch and listen. My children have inherited the “reserve” of both sides of the family. If I ask questions, I don’t get the deep answers I’m looking for, so I’ve had to sharpen my observation and listening skills. Also, time spent with them in various situations increase my understanding of my kids. I learn more about them as I watch them interact in a sports venue, in their school or church atmosphere, in the car on a trip or even in things like watching tv. Interestingly, tv and movies often stimulate conversation around our house and without knowing it, my kids have further revealed themselves to me.

    As far as discipline, my experience is that it is trial and error. With my eldest, we tried “grounding” her from certain things for disobedience or disrespectful behavior. Trouble was, she has such a strong will that she could literally–even if she had previously “loved” that thing–turn her mind to not caring a whit if she ever did it again! Then the grounding wasn’t a punishment any longer! Talk about frustrating! But what that did was push us to our knees to ask the Lord for creative ways to discipline her and to not be afraid to try something different until we found what worked or even to try something different every time!

    Whew! Didn’t know I would write so much about all that!

  7. spaghettipie

    Wow – thanks for all the really thoughtful responses! I’ll summarize them in a post sometime next week. You guys are awesome!

  8. I watch to see what makes them smile, really smile. Sometimes it surprises me… I realize… this moment, this thing we are doing… speaks to the center of who this child is.

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