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August 22, 2013

No Question on the Value of Asking Questions


Before my 3-1/2-year-old daughter Avi goes back to school (pre-K), I wanted to spend some quality time with her – just the two of us.  So we went on an adventure together to Los Angeles.

On the car ride back to the airport, I listened to her ask what seemed like a hundred questions. I love how curious she is, and welcome any and all questions.  They came rapid-fire in some cases, and other times, in between moments of silence where I know she was thinking.  I can tell when the wheels are turning in her head.  

I’m a huge fan of asking questions because of what one can learn.  In the workplace, asking good questions is an important relationship-building skill, and helps us make informed decisions.

There were times I struggled for how to answer Avi’s questions, and other times I asked her what she thought when I had a sense she knew the answer. 

See how you’d do with just a few of the brain-teasers she asked, and notice how these turn into teaching and learning moments:

 “What’s a bird?”

“What do their wings do?”

“When they fly, what happens to their legs?” (Note: her questions are not for the birds!)

“What’s a cylinder?”

“Who are those superheroes (on the billboard)?”

“Why don’t you like Barbie dolls?” 

This was one of the toughest and possibly one of the most important.  I did my best to explain my thoughts about Barbie’s body, and how it’s unrealistic.  That people come in all shapes and sizes.  That sometimes people judge us for what we look like, and it’s important to accept others for who they are.  That some people feel pressure to be skinny and it can make them sick. And, that I don’t think Barbie is a good role model for girls.

Then she said, “I accept her for who she is.”

It stopped me in my tracks.  I’m glad my 3-1/2-year-old can accept Barbie when I was clearly struggling with my own acceptance of her.

Then she said, “I want to get one but I won’t play with her when you’re around.”

To that I explained that while I don’t like Barbie, if she wants one, she can have one.  What was important to me was the conversation we had, and that she realizes that her body and looks don’t need to be like Barbie’s.

Questions allow for wonderful teaching and learning moments.  I just didn’t think this time it was I who was going to learn an important lesson.

Now, we’re off to the department store so Avi can pick out a Barbie.

- David Grossman 


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