There are certainly lots of ways to start a conversation with your dad, and it is also true that some are more effective than others. "Dad, I wrecked your new car," will start a conversation, and it may help you get to know your dad better, but the conversation probably won't go too well. It may be a very short and very animated conversation, but likely not one to lead to a better overall relationship.
But there are some amazing questions that you might consider asking your dad that will help you learn more about him, learn what makes him tick, and might help you understand a little more why he is the way he is. From asking about his childhood experiences to finding out why he wanted to be a dad to figuring out how he developed his attitudes about love, money or work, asking some key questions can really help start some amazing and insightful conversations.
As you begin the process, you may want to consider recording the conversation or at least taking notes and then jotting down your thoughts about the experience. This may create the foundation of a personal history for your father, or at least a record that could be shared with family and friends of your dad.
Questions to Ask Your Dad About His Childhood
- What are some of your earliest memories? This question can evoke some interesting stories about things that your dad remembers about his childhood. Sometimes the things we remember from our earliest years have the greatest impacts on us as we grow up.
- What do you remember most about your dad? This question can take a number of forms. You might want to take a more positive spin on a question like, "What traits did you most admire in your father?" In any case, questions along this line can help define how your dad formed his attitude and approach to fatherhood. It may also lead to deeper discussions about Dad's personal history.
- Is there anything that you wish you had asked your parents but didn't? This question can help dad focus on what he might have missed growing up or on what things he remembered that were not discussable as a child.
- Who was your best friend in elementary school? Asking this question will help dad remember some of the fun times he had as a child and the people he associates with those times. Follow up with questions about what he did with his friend outside of school or about his favorite outdoor activities growing up.
- Did you ever win an award? Almost everyone likes to be recognized, and asking a question like this will help you see what things your Dad was recognized for as a youth. It may give you some insight into where his special gifts and talents were as a young man.
- What did you want to be when you grew up? It can be interesting to get a glimpse into Dad's early aspirations and interests by asking questions along these lines. Follow up with questions about what changed that led him down a different path (if he followed a different path).
Questions to Ask Your Dad About His Young Adult Life
- How did you meet our mom? Every love story has an interesting beginning and your Dad would probably love to tell you about it. He may remember it differently from your mother, but that's still OK. His perspective is more important than the precise facts. And this perspective will be important as you consider your family's personal history.
- What was your first job and how did it go? Many men associate their self-worth through their jobs, and talking about what he learned on his first job will start a discussion about his work and career.
- Did you have a mentor growing up? Sometimes, particularly in our young adult years, people other than our parents have a big role in our development. Learning about your dad's mentors can help you get insight into who influenced Dad's life and helped him make the shift from childhood to adulthood.
- What mistakes taught you the most about life? This is a pretty introspective question and will help Dad think about what he has learned from the hard times. You can also get a little view into his personal history and his own "humanity" by asking about mistakes he made in his early life.
- How would people who knew you in high school describe you? This can be a telling question about how your dad might think others see or saw him. Often our view of ourselves is formed in our teenage years, and Dad will have a chance to reflect on that and about how his high school years influenced him.
Questions to Ask Your Dad About Being a Father
- Are there things you wish you had done differently as a father? Questions along these lines will help dad think more about the quality of his role as a father and may identify some things that could influence your role as a parent.
- What do you enjoy most about being a father? This question will help dad remember some of the better moments of his life as a dad and will help you see what he liked about his role. A good follow-up question might involve the things he least liked about being a father.
- Do you think today's fathers have things harder or easier than you had them? This is a great question to help dad reflect on the changes that have occurred since he became a father. You might get a good sense of his view of technology, entertainment, faith, work, etc. with a question like this.
- What traditions did your father pass on to you that you passed on to your children? Sometimes, we can't quite figure out where something Dad taught us came from. Questions like this will help you get some insight into his personal history and how traditions shaped his own approach to being a father.
- What was one of the hardest moments you had being a father and why was it hard? Sometimes it is tough to be a dad and the times when it was toughest can give you some great insight into why you dad parented the way he did and can give you a sense of his awe about the role of a father.
Questions to Ask Your Dad About His Personal Views
- What are the three happiest moments in your life so far? This will help you get a sense of what has been important to your dad over his lifetime and what has helped him find personal satisfaction.
- Is there something that you wish you had experienced that you haven't yet experienced? This is a gentle way of getting at some of Dad's regrets or just things he dreamed about but didn't experience. It may be a sad or melancholy response, but is a question that will give you insight into Dad's world.
- What world events have had the most impact on you? Seeing how your dad fit into the world and the events of his time can offer some interesting insights. This question can help you see how his times most influenced his life.
- Is there anything you always wanted to tell me but never have? Opening the door with a question like this can add some great insights into your personal relationship with your dad.
- How would you like to be remembered? Try to ask this one in a way that doesn't make your dad think he is leaving life anytime soon. But finding out what Dad hopes for his legacy will create some great insights and will help you see what aspects of his life are most important to him.