My Brother in law and his wife recently gave my son, Bryce, a pair of cowboy boots. As he was trying them on for the first time, my mom tried to feel his toe to ensure a good fit. The leather at the toe of the boot was too tough, however, and mom couldn’t feel of Bryce’s toe. So, she asked, “Bryce, how far does your foot go in your boot.”

Bryce replied, “all the way to the floor!”

My son always knows how to make us laugh –even when he doesn’t realize it.

Just like the boot scenario, adults can’t always measure what is going on inside of a child. As much as we try, it’s impossible to completely know a child’s heart.

Asking questions often leads to confusion if careful clarification is not given. Here are a few tips on asking questions that get to the “heart of the matter” with your child:

1)   Before asking a question, make sure you know exactly what you want to know. Are you trying to determine whether a child has or has not behaved in a certain way. Or, are you attempting to determine why your child has demonstrated the behavior. Asking questions that deal with motive, attitude, and disposition require greater preparation than “did you/did you not” questions.

2)   Put yourself in your child’s shoes (or boots) to anticipate how they will receive your question. Will it make sense to them?

3)   Use child-appropriate language. Keep it simple and get to the point. Many times adults muddy the waters by giving a long preface or explanation before asking the question.

4)   Pay attention to how you ask. Remember, children are keen observers of your disposition. If you want a child to open up about a subject, make sure they feel safe to do so.

5) Remember that some children express their hearts with more ease than others. God created us all differently. Don’t hold it against them if their emotions are as difficult to probe as tough leather on a cowboy boot. That may be a special gift that will help them later in life.

Most importantly, however, remember that only God can know the heart of a human completely. As parents, we often find ourselves in the classic tension between God’s sovereignty and our responsibility. Neither diminishes the other. We must fully trust God’s knowledge of our child’s heart as we simultaneously search their hearts with all of our ability. This leads us to the final tip for asking your child questions:

6)   Seek God’s wisdom and help. He already knows your child’s issues and he honors the efforts of faithful, concerned parents.