One of the more famous aspects of the Passover holidays is the asking of the "Four Questions" on the Seder night. These questions are formulated to spark interest and curiosity, and serve as a catalyst for the main mitzvah of telling over the story of the Exodus from one generation to another.

Our forefathers understood so well the value of a question. During the formative years of our children's lives, we teach, preach, lecture, command, demand, and order around. This is, of course, necessary in order to educate our children. But often it is carried to an extreme, with the result that the child does not develop the ability to think for himself and to make his own independent decisions.

Indeed, it is a wise parent or teacher who will learn to focus on questions as the key to helping a child develop his "brain power." The well-known book How to Talk So Kids (Teens) Will Listen and Listen So Kids (Teens) Will Talk (by Faber & Mazlish) is based on one's willingness to step back from the "automatic teaching mode" that we so often find ourselves in, and, instead, chart a new, more challenging course that can help develop a child's growing mind.

The educational power of questioning works in the reverse too; not only by encouraging children to ask and explore, but also by training ourselves to ask productive questions of them.

Why is questioning considered such an art? Because it goes against our initial response, which is often quicker and easier; i.e. that of teaching or preaching. A well-formed question is one that requires greater respect for the other person's ability to think. It elicits conversation and connection which build a relationship through mutual give-and-take. A "good" question is one which cannot be answered with "I don't know," or a "yes" or "no" response. It is asked in a respectful manner and with a sincere desire to avoid the pitfalls of demeaning or arousing resistance or rebellion.

Following are examples of non-productive questions and their responses:

1) Couldn't you see I needed help? (yes/no)

2) Do you expect me to do everything around here? (yes/no)

3) How could you have done that without checking with me? (I don't know)

4) Why do you insist on…? (I don't know)

5) Did you know that you're late again for…? (yes/no)

6) Didn't you remember to…? (yes/no)

Consider, instead, using these thought-provoking questions. Even in reading them, you can immediately sense greater care and respect for the listener:

1) What's hard about this?

2) What do you want to happen, when…?

3) What if he/she could be right?

4) When would be a good time to talk this over?

5) What would make you feel better? More protected?

6) Where did those decisions lead you in the past?

7) How do think you could handle this differently?

8) How do you see your strengths? Your weaknesses?

9) What will you be proud of later on?

10) How could we solve this in a more respectful way?

As you read through these questions you may notice a softening in your original response to the problem. Instead of: "This isn't fair!" "How could he/she…?" "I can't stand what's happening" – you now have choices of how to respond. By opening the door to questions you can experience a different perception that helps you calm down and perhaps begin to ask yourself some questions:

1) Is my demand a want or a need?

2) Do I need to react in the same old way or can I exercise other choices?

3) What will happen if I overlook/let go/stop taking responsibility?

Wishing you all a happy and Kosher Passover!