A few years ago, Dr. Michael Thompson, a child psychologist and author of many books related to child development, came to speak at my child’s school. I enjoy hearing other parenting experts speak, especially those that are dynamic and full of information. And Dr. Thompson was just that. He gave a wonderful talk outlining many strategies and approaches and was able to convey his information in a digestible manner, especially for an 8 PM lecture.
After all of these years that have passed, I still think back positively about that talk. When I think of the specifics of what I remember, there is one strong message that has stuck with me. The concept that I found to be so salient was that of not interviewing for pain. It was the first time that I had come across this concept so clearly articulated: Do not interview your child for pain. What does this look like? It looks like not asking your child about that horrible fight she had with her best friend that you spent two hours the previous day hashing out.
The main reason for this is that you should allow your child to bring up difficult points of conversation in her life. Don’t do it for her. Potentially, your child went to school and had a fantastic conversation with her best friend and smoothed everything over. By bringing up the negative feelings, you may keep her back from moving on.
Instead, ask her in general how her day went. If she still is bothered by the situation or wants to update you about the outcome, and you have a strong relationship of sharing, she will bring it up. But allow her to choose to share that information with you. Don’t do it for her.
Of course there will be times, when asking specifically what happened in any given situation may be appropriate. But before you do, take a pause and really think…am I asking this question because I personally want to know the answer, or am I asking because I think it is best for my child.