There are a million questions we ask our kids every day: What did you learn at school today? How much homework do you have? Have you cleaned your room? Can you help me make dinner? Have you brushed your teeth….and on and on.
But there is one question I learned to ask my kids. And it’s the most important question I ask them every year.
This question came about when I was working in corporate America. I noticed how incredibly important customer feedback was to the company. How are we doing?, Rate Your Experience, Complete This Feedback Form was popping up in every bit of communication to the customers.
The company wanted to know exactly what the customers felt was the most valuable part of the product line, what they used the most, what they didn’t use at all. Customer service documented thousands of calls and emails regarding the products.
At the end of every year, we made decisions on what parts of the products to invest big money in based on the customer feedback from the previous year.
After being part of this process, I became hyper-aware of how many other companies spend millions of dollars gathering feedback from their customers. It’s the most important data any given company gathers every year.
So back to parenting.
It dawned on me one day…if it is so valuable for corporate America to gather feedback from their customers on how they are doing, why are we not doing the same with our children?
So one day when my kids were toddlers, I sat down with each of them one-on-one and said the following:
Bodie, I have a question for you. You have full permission to be 100% honest. Don’t give me ‘safe’ answers. Be completely honest with your answers. Can you do that? Great. It’s important for me to know how I’m doing as your mom. I’m sure there are things that you like that I do – and other things you don’t like that I do. Can you first tell me…What do you like that I do?
My son answered ‘I like that you always play with me’.
Boom. This immediately communicated to me what the most valuable thing I can give him as his mother is quality time. Extremely valuable feedback.
Now for the tough question
Disclaimer: Do not ask the following question if you are not able or willing to hear the answer and then zip your lips. The purpose for the next question is to discover what hurts your kids emotionally or what’s possible triggering bad behavior in them.
Bodie, thanks so much for telling me what you like what I do. I have another question. What do you not like that I do – or something you wish I would stop doing?
He looked at me funny. He was scared to answer. I reassured him that he could answer the question honestly and I would not be mad at whatever answer he gave.
He answered ‘I don’t like it when you yell’.
I asked ‘Can you give me an example of when I yelled and it made you feel bad’
He said ‘When we were trying to sell the house and Conley spilled pink fingernail polish all over the carpet, you were really mad’
(Laughing) ‘Yep buddy, that was not one of my finer moments. I’m so sorry I got so mad that day. Thank you so much for being honest with me. Is there anything else you want to share with me that I can do better?’
Whatever answers you get from your kids, do not argue with them or get into a debate.
If they say “I wish you would spend more time with me” do not reply “Well, I’m a single parent and working three jobs. I’m trying to put food on the table.” Take their comment to heart and find that extra 10 minutes to read a book, play a card game or kick a ball as soon as you get home from work.
If they say “I don’t like it when you spank me”, then stop spanking.
It takes a lot of guts for a child or teenager to speak up. Respect their feedback – just as corporate America respects their customer’s feedback.
And ask these questions through the teenage years. That distant teenager who won’t talk to you anymore is dying to open up and tell you how they feel.
All you have to do is ask.
What do you do to get ‘customer feedback’ from your kids?
(photo by Pexels)