The Secret to Getting More Than One-Word Answers From Your Kid | The Village Family Service Center

The Village Family Service Center

The Secret to Getting More Than One-Word Answers From Your Kid

Thursday, August 6, 2020
Actively listening to your child can build a solid foundation for communication

By Kelsi McClaflin, MS, LPC | The Village Family Service Center

Communication can be difficult, especially with your children. It seems that no matter what the question is or how you ask it, the answer tends to be no more than one word.

Being able to communicate more openly and effectively with your child doesn’t have to be a science. Here are 3 steps to get your child to open up and talk more to you:


Often the questions you ask your child don’t leave much room for conversation. For example:

PARENT: “How was your day today?”
CHILD: “Fine.”

PARENT: “Is your homework done?”
CHILD: “Yes.”

PARENT: “Did you go to the park on your bike today?”
CHILD: “No.”

PARENT: “Do you want pizza for supper?”
CHILD: “Sure.”

Sound familiar? If it does, that is OK! It is an instinct to ask these questions, get a simple answer, and move on. But what if you want more? Open-ended questions allow for children to answer in many ways, leaving the interaction between you and your child, well … open!

Some ideas of open-ended questions might be:

  • “What are 3 good things that happened to you today?”
  • “What is something you are really looking forward to?”
  • “What is your favorite thing to do with your friends?”
  • “What do you think the best part of getting older is?”
  • “Why is ocean water salty?”

While these are only a few examples, there are thousands of different open-ended questions you can ask! Be creative! If you get stuck, the internet is a great place to get more ideas of open-ended questions to ask your child.


It is one thing to ask your children questions, but it is another to make them feel heard. Active listening simply means that you acknowledge to your child that you hear what they are saying and understand their perspectives. This can look like putting your phone down while engaging with your child, making eye contact with them, or asking follow-up questions related to what they are saying. Just as you expect them to listen to you, they expect you to listen to them. By modeling with your children how to be an active listener, they will likely follow your lead.


Being able to ask questions, listen, and converse with your children works best when you and they have a positive interaction. A positive interaction is one where the tone of all individuals is caring, honest, and well-meaning. This also means not being quick to judge each other’s points of view. Keeping your criticism to a minimum can optimize your interaction with your children.

Communicating with your child is something you should engage in frequently. It will allow you to learn more about each other and set a strong foundation in your family.

To visit with a Village counselor about improving communication within your family, call the office location nearest you or request an appointment online.

Kelsi McClaflinKelsi McClaflin is an In-Home Family Therapist at The Village Family Service Center's Moorhead office. She has a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from North Dakota State University and Master of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Minnesota State University Moorhead and is a Licensed Professional Counselor.