Questions to Ask Your Father to Get to Know Him on a Deeper Level

Elderly man laughing with his adult son on a park bench

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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 though likely not one to lead to a better overall relationship.


Consider asking your dad some pointed questions that will help you learn more about him, 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 personal history for your father, or at least a record that could be shared with family and friends of your dad.

Questions About His Childhood

Below are some questions to ask your father about his childhood:

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 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).
  • 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.
  • 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.

Questions About His Young Adult Life

Below are some questions to ask your father about his young adult life:

  • 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.
  • How did you meet 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 the mistakes he made in his early life.
  • 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.

Questions About Being a Father

Below are some questions to ask your father 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.
  • 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 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.
  • 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 your dad had the parenting style he did.

Questions About His Personal Views

Below are some questions to ask your father about his personal views:

  • 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 he hopes for his legacy will create some great insights and help you see what aspects of his life are most important to him.
  • 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 and strengthen your personal relationship with your dad.
  • 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 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.
  • 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.

By Wayne Parker
Wayne's background in life coaching along with his work helping organizations to build family-friendly policies, gives him a unique perspective on fathering.