I’m a pediatric dentist and I’m having trouble following your advice about asking questions with my young patients. For the most part, the parents are articulate and responsive. But kids from about 8 to 13 years old give monosyllabic answers to every question we ask. When we ask things like, “How do you feel about brushing your teeth?” they look at us like we have two heads and just shrug. Most of the kids don’t care about their teeth and only come to our office because their parents brought them. So, how do we engage them better?
Engaging kids follows the same principle as engaging adults: you need to find what motivates them and then connect to that. In one practice, a well-meaning but possibly deluded dental assistant has been telling kids that if they don’t upgrade their mediocre home care, they’ll end up with gingivitis and large dental bills when they’re adults. But what 10-year-old will find that a motivating reason to brush better? Plus, threatening people is generally not a great way to inspire change.
So – just like with adults — ask kids about their interests, passions and hobbies. For example, here’s a dialogue you could have with a soccer fanatic kid.
So kid, who’s your favorite player?
Oh yeah- what makes X your favorite?
Have you watched X being interviewed? What do they do well?
Would you like to be interviewed too one day?
Well, have noticed if X has a good smile? Would you like to feel self-confident too?
You can see where I’m going with this. And it’s an even easier dialogue if the child is obsessed with selfies and becoming an “influencer.”