PEP Blog


The Art of the Open-Ended Conversation

By Paige Trevor, Certified PEP Parent Educator

Going down this parenting path with my own two teenagers and being a parent educator, I experience and listen to lots and lots of parenting struggles. Of the many tips and tools I know, one has been jumping out at me lately: the open-ended conversation.

I think we parents often are looking for a one-stop shopping conversation (let’s be honest, lecture). We see a problem, we have a great solution, we have a conversation (again, let’s be honest, we give a lecture and direction). The child sort of goes along, but not really.

Frustration ensues. “I told him/her . . .” We usually then tell the child again—louder, meaner, stronger. Then we come back to PEP classes frustrated and annoyed.

A more nuanced, a more subtle, a more elegant tool is the open-ended conversation. It isn’t efficient or speedy, but it can be effective and relationship building.

Some of us really overachieving folks might not even know what an open-ended conversation is. It’s a conversation we enter into without any answers or assumptions.

WHAT? Yes! And there’s more: the open-ended conversation is really many, many conversations.

The parent brings up a topic, asks some questions, listens to the answers and lets it be for a few days (excruciating!). Then the parent circles back around, asks some more questions, waits for more answers, seeks clarification, listens and says, “Thanks for telling me.”

Wait. Is this really a parenting tool?

Yes, it is. And, while it isn’t for every parenting job, I suggest you start experimenting with it.

“You seem really ticked off about chores lately—what chores might be more appealing? What chores do your friends have to do?”

“Oh, you want to stay out until 10:00 on Fridays. Well, tell me, why I should say yes?”

“Why do you think teachers give homework? What’s the benefit to them? What’s the benefit to the student?”

“What careers look interesting to you today?”

“What do kids do these days who go to parties and don’t want to drink or smoke? Is there an easy way out for them?”

“Suzanne was so upset when she had to leave the park. Do you think her mother handled it effectively?”

Remember, our kids have their own private thoughts and ideas and assumptions. Rudolf Dreikurs said it so well: “Their ideas and viewpoints are important, particularly since they act in accordance with them.”

Where might you use the subtle art of the open-ended conversation in your family today? Leave a comment, and start a conversation here!


Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Sign Up for PEPTalk

Subscribe to our mailing list

Powered by Robly


Parent Encouragement Program
10100 Connecticut Ave.
Kensington, MD 20895

Apart from the free survey software, we also have access to QuestionPro's free survey templates . We've found many of them useful and powerful to collect insights from various stakeholders of our organization.