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3 Simple Strategies To Get Your Child To Open Up

3 easy ways to get your child to open up

Will you go out with me? Will you marry me? Do you want to have kids? The questions we ask each other have the power to change the course of our lives forever.  In this interview with Frank Sesno, an Emmy award winning journalist and author of Ask More, we draw upon Frank’s experience as a father and an expert questioner to figure out how we can use questions to communicate better with our children and, ultimately, be better parents

One of Frank’s chapters focuses on bridging questions. We’ve heard Frank say in previous interviews that he almost called this chapter “how to deal with teenagers and terrorists”.  Bridging questions are questions that help you get someone to speak who initially was not game to do so.  Often, our children are not keen to share information about their school day or how the playdate went.  Knowing what bridging questions are and being able to use them in these situations are incredible tools to use to get our children to tell us more.  In this chapter, Frank interviews an expert interrogator for the FBI and U.S. Marshals, Barry Spodack, and discovers how he interrogates successfully. 

Frank says,

“The notion of bridging questions is questions that you're asking someone to establish rapport just to get them talking when that person is wary, suspicious, isolated, alienated, angry, maybe hostile.

What Barry's trying to do is put his subjects at ease and get them talking. That's what we need to do with a suspicious child, if we're trying to bridge that divide and create a conversation"

Bridging Questions: Questions without question marks

Frank says,

“Barry has what I call questions without question marks. They are deliberately intended to not be threatening. He's saying, “tell me about that, Tell me more. Explain that to me.” If done the right way with the right tone of voice, they are invitations for someone to open up.  They are offered in a way deliberately not to put someone on the defensive but to create an opportunity for further conversation. We can do more of that and should do more of that with our kids.”

Therapists often use this technique to get clients to literally "tell them more".  It works with children too.  

When your child starts talking about an incident that you would like to engage in a conversation, try simply saying "tell me more".  

3 Key Strategies To Get Your Child To Open Up

When you child says "I made a map at school today," or "my friend hit me today." or "I don't want to go to school," or "I really like this friend," and you want to learn more, what can you say to encourage your child to tell you more about the sitiuation?

1. Say "Tell Me More".  Look at your child and say "Tell me more" and be ready to start listening! These are, as Frank says, "invitations to open up" . Other examples of this type of "question without question marks":

  • "Tell me about that"
  • "Explain that to me"

2.  As your child is speaking, use micro-affirmations (little notes of encouragement without stopping the conversation) to get your child to continue talking.  Micro-affirmations include:

  • saying "uh huh" periodically
  • Nodding
  • Smiling
  • Reacting with a gesture

3.  Repeat your child's words.  When you use your child's words, it shows you are listening and in tune with what your child is saying.  Naturally, your child will affirm that she said those words and then, keep on talking!

As always, let us know your thoughts in the blog notes on how these 3 Strategies work for you and your child!  We have found them incredibly successful and frankly infallible so far in our house. Happy talking and enjoy the conversations.


Want to listen rather than read it? Download the interview on iTunes | Download for Android and other devices | Download directly here

. . . 

Check out Frank's book at or  “I hope this book can inspire people. I hope this book can inform people a bit. We can all learn from one another.” Frank Sesno


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