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Ask questions & listen carefully to responses


On a recent evening, my son and I were at the kitchen table studying together.

He was preparing for an exam and I was reviewing a lesson plan.

For the most part, we were quietly working until I felt compelled to ask him a question.

The teacher's guide I was studying contained a reference to the "moon shining brightly at night."

I asked him to think about the paragraph as I read it. He took a break from studying and listened.

"Now, tell me what's wrong with what I just read," I asked.

He thought, shook his head and asked me to read it again.

I read it again, emphasizing the word "moon" and the word "shining."

He smiled and accused me of getting too technical.

"Ah, Mom, everyone says that the moon shines," he said, shaking his head. "People don't say that the moon reflects the light of the sun."


Yes, "shine" is the word most people choose, but is it an accurate word choice for what the moon really does? The moon does not give off any light. It merely reflects the light of the sun.

I know my son is correct about people commonly referring to "how brightly the moon is shining tonight." That's probably where backwoods producers of illegal liquor acquired a name for their goods. Can you imagine if the word "moonshine" would be "moonreflect" instead? That sounds too upscale for the likes of that crowd.

I often ask my children questions such as the one above so that they will think about the choices they can make when writing or speaking.

A few days after the moon shines/reflects conversation, my son entered the laundry room with one of his drawings in hand.

"Mom, does this look like a dog?"

I had to smile because "dog" was the only thing I could think of when looking at the drawing.

He wanted to know what was so funny.

"The way you asked the question," I said. "Perhaps it would have been better to ask, 'Mom, what does this look like?' I'm your mother, and I'm not going to tell you that your dog doesn't look like a dog, especially since you told me it is a dog."

He laughed and then listened to my honest opinion. The drawing was actually quite good.

Not all of the conversations we have are mental exercises in disguise. Can you imagine how frustrating and tiring that would be? Yet a healthy dose of verbal give-and-take between parent and child can be beneficial for both.

The child develops strong reasoning and problem-solving skills. The parent gets to know how the child thinks.

This approach requires some gentleness on the parent's part so the child doesn't feel threatened or put on the spot. Likewise, the child needs to have some degree of curiosity toward solving the spoken word puzzle presented to him.

So why bring this up now at the end of a school year?

Because kids need their family members to help them continue learning over the summer.

This learning might not involve textbooks or pencils or pens, but it is a vital part of a child's development. The best thing parents can do for their child's education is encourage him or her to analyze the things that are placed before him.

Relax this summer with your children. Ask questions and listen carefully to the responses. You might be surprised what you'll learn in the coming weeks.

Lisa Tedrick Prejean writes a weekly column for The Herald-Mail's Family page. Send e-mail to her at

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