Myra pressed her shoulder against the doorframe as she watched her two kids climb onto the school bus. The morning had gotten off to a bumpy start with lost homework, spilled cereal, and a brand-new sneaker that Fido had chewed to shreds. Myra wondered for the tenth time that week how to be a better parent to her two boys. But where could she turn to for constructive feedback on her parenting? And what questions would she even ask?
Moms and dads everywhere are constantly wondering how to be better parents to their children. Every parent knows they have weaknesses and imperfections. So how do we identify the points where we need improvement? And how do we know if we are remotely on the right track with our kids?
One of the best ways is to check in with the people on the receiving end of our parenting efforts: our kids. Asking for constructive feedback from our children is a great way to become a better parent. Talking with our kids will help us to better see our blind spots and address areas of our parenting that we need to work on.
Constructive Feedback Can Help You Be a Better Parent
As a therapist, I have found that some moms and dads feel threatened by the idea of receiving input from their kids. For them, receiving the opinions of others evokes negative memories and feelings. Other parents may think getting feedback from children brings their authority into question. Yet other parents say their children’s responses would be welcomed and helpful. For these individuals, getting feedback has positive associations.
Some families may not be emotionally and relationally healthy enough for an open and honest check-in. But when feedback can be given in a healthy and respectful way, checking in with the family is well worth it and can be life-giving to the family. In fact, check-ins offer the opportunity for deeper relationships, more openness, growth, and necessary resets.
A Biblical Basis for Constructive Feedback
You can begin with Psalm 139:23-24 where David asks for God to search his heart in order to be known, to see, and to be led in the right direction. In fact, he wants to know if there is any grievous or hurtful way in him.
In the book of Proverbs, King Solomon states, “Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance” (Proverbs 1:5). He continues, “Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future” (Proverbs 19:20). Solomon’s guidance for listening to constructive feedback from others appears several more times in the Book of Proverbs. Here are a few more examples:
Paul writes in Ephesians 4:15, “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.” What an excellent opportunity we have as parents to learn from our children, whose feedback can help us grow and be a better parent. Asking for feedback is also an excellent opportunity for us to teach our kids how to offer constructive feedback to others and to speak the truth in love. We can use this constructive feedback to grow ourselves, our relationships with our kids, and with Christ.
How to Ask Your Kids For Constructive Feedback
Checking in involves asking your kids some simple questions about how you’re doing as a parent and if anything is getting in the way of your relationship.
If you ask your kids, “How am I doing as a dad or a mom?” chances are, you’ll hear this response: “Fine.” It’s sort of like asking, “How was your day?” This question is likely to elicit the same reaction. Having a list of specific questions to ask your kids to guide the conversation can be very useful and illuminating.
Questions to Ask Your Kids
You can begin with the question, “What is it like to be with me?” This question gives you a chance to see yourself from your children’s perspective.
Additional questions I’ve taught families in my private practice include:
- What has been going well for you this past week/month? Are there things that haven’t been going well?
- What has been going well for us as a family this past week/month? Are there things that haven’t been going well?
- What do you need from me to make things better in our home this week/month?
- On a scale of 1–10, with 10 being the best I have ever done as a mom/dad, how have I been doing the last few weeks?
- Have I been listening and understanding you well?
- Have I been too busy for connection?
- Do you wish we had more time together?
- Are family rules, boundaries, and limits clear? Are any of them confusing?
- Is there anything you’re upset about that we have not resolved?
- What do you wish I did more of that would help our relationship?
What other ideas can you think of for your own list of questions to ask your kids? I encourage you to develop your own set of questions and check-in periodically with your kids and your spouse to see how you are doing. Use their constructive feedback and apply it to ways you can be a better parent.
Be creative with the questions you ask, and don’t be afraid of constructive feedback from your kids. Instead, welcome it! To get you started, click here for our FREE download full of questions to ask your kids. I recommend writing their responses in a journal or notebook to be able to reference and also show your kids that you are taking their responses seriously.
5 Behaviors of Healthy, Thriving Families
Another option is to use the following list of five behaviors or rhythms of healthy, thriving families to help you develop your own check-in questions.
- Spending time together
- Sharing laughter and playfulness
- Eating meals together
- Taking part in prayer and self-reflection
- Engaging in conversation
Research supports the benefits of each of these to the relational health and connectedness of the family.
Being intentional and setting goals are essential parts of being a successful parent. Checking in with your family and asking for constructive feedback check both boxes. Make them a part of your monthly, quarterly, or annual routine.
If you want to see how you score as an intentional parent, take the FREE parenting assessment.
For more practical parenting tips, go to www.focusonthefamily.com/parenting or listen to the Focus on Parenting podcast.