Nick Pearl | Brevard, NC

Often we think that being a role model to children is showing a spectacular example of how a human is successful, confident, and driven. I disagree. In fact, the best instructors that I ever worked with in wilderness therapy were the ones who were outspoken about their mistakes and making amends.

We live in a culture where we vilify making mistakes, however, we want people to gain experience. As Mark Twain says, “Good decisions come from experience. Experience comes from making bad decisions.” It is important for our children to hear that making poor choices is an important step in growing and learning.

If a choice a child makes truly is a mistake, they will not need any help from the adults in their life to feel embarrassed, ashamed, and apologetic. The way these emotions present as behaviors can be diverse, and probably specifically designed to annoy their parents. With that being said, we have a tool that we can utilize many times a week to bring the family closer and impart empathy and resources for the process of making mistakes.

While eating dinner as a family each evening has many proven benefits, sometimes it can be challenging to have meaningful conversations where you get to know your child(ren) and they get to know you. Asking intentional questions where everyone answers can offer insights into who your children are and how they problem solve, how they negotiate relationships and the relationships they have, and opportunities for us to role model vulnerability.

So, with all of this being said, here is a list of questions that I have used to promote growth in our students, my children, and the clients I worked with in the woods:

Pre-K and Kinders (Ages 3-6)

Who helped you today?

What was hard to do today? What will make it easier tomorrow?

What are you proud that you did today?

What are you not proud that you did today?

Acorns (Ages 6-9)

What did you fail at today? What will you do differently next time?

What did you disagree with today?

What problem did you solve this week?

How did you help someone today?

Monarchs (Ages 9-12)

What are you looking forward to tomorrow?

What challenged your beliefs today?

What made you feel closer to a friend today?

What surprising thing did you learn about a friend today?

How can you be a better friend tomorrow?

What made you feel excited today?

Who hurt you today? What do you think made them act unkind?

Coyotes (Ages (12-15)

What mistake did you make today? How did you make amends?

Who is a leader you would like to emulate? What do they do that you want to do as well?

What surprises you about people?

What makes you trustworthy?

What conflicts are you thinking about right now? What will it take to resolve them?

I often say that the answers that our children give to the questions don’t matter, because each question plants a new seed of self reflection. That being said, creating an environment where your children can reflect on their experiences and create the tools for self evaluation will serve them in future conflicts and hardships by leading them to a deeper understanding of who they are.

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