Kids and Questions


First off I have to say that I adored Lara’s post about making her children hold their questions for later.

The bits I loved best were the part, “It’s a well know fact that if you make a child think with their mouth closed then their head will explode and I wanted to see how long that would take.” And the part about the child thinking, “I might cease to exist if I don’t hear every detail of the next 24 hours of my life over and over and over again.”!!! (My kids.)

I made a pathetic attempt to read it to my parents when they came over Monday night, and somehow, despite my exhaustion-induced hysterics (yes, it is also funny on its own merits), they heard the humor and enjoyed it too.

What that started a train of thought (and conversation) about kids and the questions they ask.


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I confessed to my mom that I didn’t like to shut off the kids’ questioning, even when it got inane, because I wanted them to feel valued, and that questions deserve an answer. (I also want them to do some critical thinking and listening. Any ideas?)

Mom acknowledged she felt the same way when we were growing up, but our questions could really irritate my dad and we (I vaguely remember this) eventually were told just to be quiet and quit asking.

I don’t begrudge them this. I know first-hand how annoying these questions can get.

I’ve found I get the most upset by questions when they seem like a stall tactic, and to prevent snapping at the question or the questioner (I told my mom), my new “mom-line” is, “Ask while you’re obeying.”

As in, you won’t get an answer anyway until you do as you’re told, and don’t wait until you’re ready to obey.

“I wish I’d thought of that,” she said.

That is such a cool thing to hear from your mom.

~ ~ ~

My other tack when we fall into endless questioning is to go all Socratic on them:

“Well, why do you think that is?”

Sometimes they just don’t want to think, and will say I don’t know, but there are times they’ll take a legitimate stab at the answer, and it’s usually delightful (sometimes inaccurate, but nearly always delightful).

I love watching (and listening) to my children think.

If they persist in the passive I don’t know, I interpret it as a request to be entertained or a test to see how much of their mother’s undivided attention they can secure.

So I act accordingly. Or, according to my mood at the time.

If I feel they’re trying to manipulate me (What an ugly word to apply to children! Got a better one?), I’ll do the brief, “Think about it for a while,” type of response.

If I feel in a mood to be entertaining, I’ll begin spouting obvious (to a toddler) misinformation to make them laugh.

If it’s a legitimate question, and from a conflict in personality or tiredness-cycles we’re not connecting at the moment, I say I’ve explained it the best I know how just now, and if she wants to ask me after nap (or after I’ve rested) maybe it would make more sense then.

So… this is how I try to be straightforward, and not begrudge them their questions. As I mentioned in my awareness post, yesterday, it’s important to me.

For more in-home ideas visit Rocks in my Dryer.

9 thoughts on “Kids and Questions

  1. Great tips! And with an almost 4 year old and a two year old, these will come in handy oh, about every three seconds! :)

  2. Great post! I just wrote last night about my oldest’s constant “How Come?” I feel more energy today but sometimes the questions just seem never-ending. Thanks for the ideas!

  3. I have twin five year olds and a three year old. I get questions ALL the time, sometimes more than one at a time. I love turning it around – “What do you think?” is one of my favorite responses.

  4. I love this. Especially the “Ask while you are obeying” trick. I am working so hard with my kids to help them to do what I ask whe I ask it, instead of questions and tantrums and the like. I’m going to try that this week!

  5. How did you know exactly what I’ve been struggling with lately? I like the “Ask while you are obeying,” too.

    I also use “What do you think?” But to me it seems to come out sarcastic. It’s an ongoing process, I guess.

    Thanks for some ideas to think about.

  6. One thing I forgot to mention was that when the girls were younger, they would ask the same (sometimes obvious!) question repeatedly and just make me nuts.

    My break-through there came when I realized they just wanted the give-and-take of conversation but hadn’t learned how to do it yet.

    The morning I redirected my 3 (?)-year-old’s question from measuring spoons to her visit with Uncle Derek, the dam burst. She talked on and on about the work he was doing and I was able to ask original questions to keep the conversation going.

    I don’t think the questions themselves are necessarily the important thing to the child, I think it’s her knowing someone is listening to her uniqueness, and responding to her as an individual.

    And that’s what we all want, isn’t it.

  7. Pingback: Kids and Questions-- Update

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