Have you ever said “What in the world were you thinking” to a child? My guess is you didn’t get a very helpful response. Ask More, Tell Less: A Practical Guide for Helping Children Achieve Self-Reliance by Greg Warburton suggests asking the right questions can move you and your children from their reliance on your help to make good choices to their self-reliance.
Parts of this book were excellent and even introduced a couple of new ideas to me. I loved the idea of teaching kids not just to be honest with others, but honest with themselves. He accurately pointed out that often we lie to ourselves about our bad behaviors. Those lies keep us and our kids from making necessary changes. That is a perspective I don’t believe I have ever heard before and I believe it could be life changing for many kids (and adults).
I also appreciated the amount of time he put into helping parents understand the importance of really listening to your kids and asking questions that will help them reveal their hearts (my words, not his). He gives lots of examples of questions a parent could ask about a wide range of choices, attitudes and behaviors. While I believe some of his questions are not quite as open ended as he believes, they are definitely an improvement over the questions many parents typically ask.
Where I think the book falls a little short is that the author doesn’t really address Bloom’s taxonomy as it would apply to a child’s improved understanding of his/her behavior. The entire book is an attempt to move children from knowing the rules (facts) to understanding why those are rules and why it is important for them to be obeyed. Because the author doesn’t address scaffolding, he just barely touches on the need at times to “tell and lecture” rather than merely ask questions.
The reality is this method is probably most effective with elementary and perhaps middle school aged children (as it is written). Children of preschool age and below aren’t ready for the type of introspection this method requires. They are also still learning what a rule is and which rules they are supposed to follow. Teens would find many of these questions too childish in the way they are expressed. (Ex: “Are you growing up or growing down?”) I think the concept would still work with them, the questions would just need to be reworded to keep from alienating a teen.
My other concern was the author’s continued insistence on self-reliance. While I understand and agree with him to a point, self-reliance gone too far leaves no room for God. This method also does nothing to address the need for God’s help in breaking bad habits. In fact, the author makes this method for changing a child’s behavior seem a little too easy. Once or twice he alluded to the fact a child did some backsliding, but I would imagine with any deeply ingrained bad habits the backsliding would be more common than was shared.
I also have a few concerns about celebrating “growing up” behaviors. While I do agree children should be celebrated when they master something like breaking a bad habit, the idea of a certificate for every tiny little step in the right direction seems a bit much. Personally, I skew a little more to the “life will not constantly reward you for doing what you are supposed to be doing” end of the scale. I am definitely an encourager, but I am afraid children who have every tiny appropriate action celebrated will go through life disappointed their friends and co-workers aren’t constantly giving them awards for doing what is expected (much less going the extra mile).
Whether you use this exact method or not, the author is correct in his basic premise. Your kids need to move from depending upon you to help them make good decisions to where they can make those godly choices without your help. The author’s questions are a good way to begin helping them make that transition. Having to answer questions that force them to take control of their actions and attitudes is a good first step.
This book was given to me for free in exchange for my honest review. An affiliate link is included for your convenience.