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So Many Questions: Practicing Appreciative Inquiry With Your Child

Working at the same place where my child attends school, I get the fortune of having extra time to spend with my oldest, every morning and every afternoon, as we commute together to and from ISDenver. These extra minutes in the car are not something I take for granted. While it means I am listening to the soundtrack of Frozen II rather than listening to NPR, or that my quick early morning run into Target turns into a production of loading and unloading a child into their booster seat, it still gives me precious moments of the most random conversation I have throughout my day.

One of the best parts of these car rides are the stories and questions that come from my daughter's mouth. Today’s five minutes of questioning included: “When I am 80 will I still be your baby? Why will I be your baby still? Will Daddy die first because he is older? Why do I need to have a baby? Why can a bus drive in snow? Why is tomorrow Wednesday? Can I wear a dress tomorrow?” In that particular order!

While annoyed at times by the endless questioning, as I have studied inquiry-based learning more and more over the years, I realize that the responses we give to our children’s questioning, even at the youngest ages, can help or hinder their abilities to be inquisitive learners in the future. I am not saying that I have an incredible gift of patience that lets me answer each of my child’s questions with a well thought out and enthusiastic response, but I do think twice about shutting down her line of questioning the older she gets.

As a parent, we too can model how to be inquisitive learners in our own homes. David Cooperrider coined the term Appreciative Inquiry (AI), in 1986. This theory is designed to use positive psychology to ask questions and overcome challenges in order to enhance organizational structures, or in this case, family structure. There are four aspects of AI, and as families, we can bring them into our own homes to guide our conscious parenting. They are: Discovering, Dreaming, Designing, and Destiny. 

  • Discovering - Appreciating and Identifying what works for your family. What is going really well right now.
  • Dreaming - Looking at what you want to improve as a family.
  • Designing - How will you even go about this dream building?
  • Destiny - Now that you are here, what does it look like? Feel like? What can you learn and improve?

I have mentioned Conscious Parenting in past blogs, which, in simple terms, is a way of being in tune with your child’s needs and your family goals in order to guide your parenting approach. Using AI helps us improve our Conscious Parenting. We begin to include our whole family while we reflect on the positives and the challenges that we face as a family unit. Our teachers are also including AI into their teaching, without always knowing they are consciously doing so. Our children at ISDenver are reflective learners with a growth mindset that they can make mistakes and grow from them. By including our children in how to inquire, we foster a supportive learning environment both at school and at home.  

So while the discussion of with your 5th grader about why they don’t need a phone challenges every bit of patience you have, attempt to use the AI approach with your inquiring pre-teen. Guide them to discuss, what works well by not having that phone? What would the phone allow them to do or not do? How could you design a plan with them to fill the needs that they are seeking? Lastly, take time to reflect on whether or not this idea you created together actually worked. Your child will appreciate having their voice heard while the decision becomes everyone’s buy-in. 



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