Create the family you want to have

Parent Affirmation Monday- Curious- 11/12/12

Written by, Kate Oliver, MSW, LCSW-C

Curious children gather around photographer To...

Curious children gather around photographer Toni Frissell, looking at her camera (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This weeks affirmation for parents focuses on the “c” in Daniel Hughes concept of PLACE Parenting, the attitude of curiosity. Curiosity in parenting is absolutely essential and often overlooked. By being curious, we can avoid a lot of misunderstandings with our children that are based on our own quick assumptions that we always know what they are thinking. I see so many issues in my office which arise that could have been avoided from the beginning had parents used a parenting strategy that incorporated curiosity. Being curious is especially important for my readers who have children with attachment disturbance as those children often see and understand the world quite differently than we adults expect them to.

When I suggest that parents get curious, what I mean is that when children are angry or upset, rather than assume that we know what they are angry or upset about, get curious. I remember a time when my nephew, who was five, was at my house playing with my girls. The play got a bit rough and I ended up fussing at him. He is not used to me fussing at him, and when I looked at him, I was surprised. While I anticipated he would be upset, or seem repentant, what I saw was him to see him glaring at me, chin down, eyes up, fists clenched, shoulders hunched, and breathing through his gritted teeth. My instant response was that he was angry with me for correcting him, but, rather than assuming, I got curious. I took a breath and using a light tone, (think Mr. Rogers) I asked him if there was something he was upset about. He replied that he was very angry. Rather than assuming he was angry with me, which would have been easy, since I was the one he was glaring and blinking rapidly at, I asked who he was angry with. His response surprised me again. He blurted out, “I’m angry with myself!” and burst into tears.

Imagine the difference in response from believing that your child is angry with you, to understanding that your child is angry with himself. Doesn’t the knowledge change the response? When we take an attitude of genuine curiosity with our children, the result is that we deepen our understanding of them, and our relationship with them.

Often, I have parents ask me to give them words to use with children. Here are some phrases that work well when coming from a curious place.

  • I’m not sure I understand where you are coming from, can you help me?
  • I’m curious about what has you upset?
  • I’m wondering what you think just happened?
  • What do you think about that?
  • How do you feel about that?
  • What do you think is going to happen next?
  • I wonder what you think I said that?

Please remember that the tone of curiosity is as important, if not more important than the words. After all the words, “What were you thinking?” can be said in many different ways. The tone of genuinely wanting to know where a child is coming from is essential in using this technique. I am sure if you begin to explore this your children will surprise you with their responses. I would love to hear about it if they do. Also remember, that we are incorporating the other parts of the PLACE attitude, like “accepting,” so that whatever your child’s response is, you accept that that is what they were thinking, rather than trying to talk them out of it. Here is response and a question you can ask with curiosity if your child says something that you have difficulty accepting. “It makes sense you are feeling that way if that is what you think happened. Is it possible, it could have been something else?” Make sure you give a moment between the acceptance and the question.

I am curious to find out how this goes for you. Really! Please feel free to share your findings from your own adventures in curiosity this week in the comments below, or via email: This week’s affirmation is:

I no longer jump to conclusions. I am curious about all areas of my child’s emotional and physical well-being.

November 12, 2012 - Posted by | affirmations, attachment disorder, discipline, help for parents, Parenting | , , , , , , , , ,


  1. Reblogged this on Licensed Mental Health Counselor.

    Comment by licensedmentalhealthcounselor | November 12, 2012 | Reply

  2. […] Parent Affirmation Monday- Curious- 11/12/12 ( […]

    Pingback by Parent Affirmation Monday- Empathic- 11/17/2012 « help4yourfamily | November 19, 2012 | Reply

  3. Reblogged this on Kim's Counseling Corner and commented:
    I always love the perspective Kate Oliver brings to a topic in parenting. Being “curious” is a great way to remind us to ask questions before responding to a situation or person. We often assume we know why a person feels angry, or why they responded they way they did… but we can easily be lacking important information. Simply asking questions, being curious, can change our initial assumptions and ensure we respond more appropriately. This idea can also be applied to our relationships with our significant others, co-workers, and parents. Thank you Kate!

    Comment by Kim Peterson, MA, LPC-S, RPT | November 19, 2012 | Reply

  4. Great post! Reblogged it and hope that’s ok!

    Comment by Kim Peterson, MA, LPC-S, RPT | November 19, 2012 | Reply

  5. […] Parent Affirmation Monday- Curious- 11/12/12 ( […]

    Pingback by Parent Affirmation Monday- budgeting- 11/26/2012 « help4yourfamily | November 26, 2012 | Reply

  6. […] Parent Affirmation Monday- Curious ( […]

    Pingback by Chronological Age vs. Developmental Age « help4yourfamily | January 5, 2013 | Reply

  7. […] Parent Affirmation Monday- Curious ( […]

    Pingback by Older Kids with Bathroom Issues: Why does it happen? How Can You Help? Part 1 – help4yourfamily | January 24, 2013 | Reply

  8. […] Parent Affirmation Monday- Curious ( […]

    Pingback by Naming Patterns Changes Patterns « help4yourfamily | August 8, 2013 | Reply

Leave a Reply to Kim Peterson, MA, LPC-S, RPT Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: