The 3 questions aren’t about solving the problem—they’re about connecting with your kid

Parents of tweens and teens already know how challenging those years can be. As kids grow up and start to learn to be independent humans, the way they express that they’re independent humans isn’t always ideal. Tantrums, talking back, attitude, etc.—you’ve seen it all. And when they get upset, it can be like an impenetrable steel wall going up around them. Thankfully, mom and parenting coach Dr. Chelsey Hauge-Zavaleta has an amazing tip for chipping away at that wall when you have an angry big kid—and all it takes to start is asking three questions.

Dr. Hauge-Zavaleta shared the “three yes questions” technique in a TikTok video that promptly went viral because it’s pretty much genius.


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♬ original sound – Dr. Chelsey Hauge-Zavaleta

“My favorite parenting tool for big kids or teens is called the three yeses,” she says in the video, then goes on to explain, “Let’s say your big kid or teen is mad, upset, frustrated, pissed off at you, all the things. Maybe you have an idea of what you should say or what the consequence should be, what they should do differently or how to fix it. Maybe you even want to lecture them.”

She continues, “Hold up! We’re going to do the three yeses instead. This is not a tool that’s going to fix everything, but it is a tool that’s going to create connection, and we’re going to use the connection to help your big kid or teen regulate and then resolve the issue on their own. Here’s how it goes.”

The key, Dr. Hauge-Zavaleta explains, is to get out of your own perspective and see things from your child’s point of view. Then, give them three questions they can say yes to from their point of view.

She gives an example: a family goes on a yearly vacation to a cabin with their grandparents and teen daughter, who has always been able to bring a friend, but because of COVID, she couldn’t this year. So while the family plays board games downstairs, she’s hiding in a bedroom, refusing to play. Mom wants to unplug the wifi, but instead, she goes to the bedroom to try the three yeses.

“I might say three statements like this: ‘Wow. You really wanted to bring a friend. You do not want to go downstairs and play those babyish games. You’re counting the days til we go home.’ That’s it. Three. Then you get to be quiet. If your big kid or teen doesn’t respond, but you can feel in the air that there’s a shift, great. This builds the connection just a little bit.” (If you’ve got it wrong, you have to own up to misunderstanding, which still opens the door.) At that point, after talking more, the mom was able to ask, “Okay, what can we do here?”—putting the ball in the daughter’s court. The daughter determined that she could join the family for one game. A perfect solution? No. But it’s a vast improvement.

Dr. Hauge-Zavaleta explains that the questions and connection create a foundation: the daughter feels heard and understood, and the mom opens a door to communicate with her so they can come to an agreement. It doesn’t guarantee smooth sailing free of conflict, but it helps them both reach a point where they better understand each other’s perspectives.

It’s not a magic bullet that will solve all communication problems, but it’s a good place to start—and all it takes is three questions.

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