Does your child bother you with question after question? Learn why your child’s annoying questions are actually good for him.
“What is time?”
“Why is an orange a circle?”
“How do people love each other when they’re apart?”
Your kids chase you around the house, even as you try to ignore them by reading a book or doing chores.
Do these “annoying questions” seem useless? Maybe to our over-scheduled, harried adult selves.
We like to discuss things that make sense. Stuff that happened at school, what she wants to eat for dinner, and where she put her teddy bear. You know, real stuff.
Why your child’s annoying questions are actually good
But these “annoying questions” are those that many philosophers and academics ask. People have written books and journals about time, botany and love, but we don’t roll our eyes at them.
It’s easy for us to forget how much we don’t know. We’re adults—we think we’ve gone through enough to survive life and get the basics. Somewhere along the line, we stopped asking questions and settled for what we know.
We leave the abstract and profound to other minds. We see philosophy as a luxury career, one left for “smart” people to sort. But here are our kids asking the “annoying questions,” determined to make sense of our world.
And what are some of our typical reactions when kids ask “annoying questions”? We…
- get annoyed.
- don’t take their questions seriously.
- rush through an answer.
- don’t encourage further thought.
- judge their questions.
Kids stop asking philosophical and worldly questions around elementary school years.
Part of that I would say is because they’re older. With age, we understand (or at least accept) the world. We don’t need to know exactly how high the clouds are, only that they’re high. We’ve adjusted and are better acclimated to our world in ways young children have not.
But kids also stop asking is because they’ve learned about “good” and “bad” questions.
We respond to some questions while brushing others off. Some questions we laud with “Great question!” and others we smirk or ignore. This isn’t just parents either—their peers, teachers and family might do the same.
How can we raise kids even with the “good question/bad question” feedback they’ll receive and not kill the philosopher in our kids?
Respect the question
I’ll be the first to admit I sometimes don’t respect my son’s questions. I don’t mean to, but certain questions elicit strange looks or reactions. Or sometimes household stress doesn’t give me the time or patience to answer him.
That’s when I need to remind myself to respect his questions, no matter how silly they may seem to me. My kid jokes, but many other times he’s dead serious about something that seems odd to us. Yet if you look at the question, you realize how deep or inquisitive he is.
Respect your child’s question the next time he asks. Don’t brush it off or don’t give fluff answers just to keep him quiet. Give it your best shot to answer the question. Make him feel like he can ask questions without you judging or making him feel silly.
Questions are not “good” or “bad”
I never run out of reasons to say “good,” it seems. From “good job!” to now, “good question!” I’m adding unnecessary judgment to my conversation with my son:
When we think about judgment, we imagine the negatives. Putting people down or saying something disrespectful.
But judgment also applies to positive phrases, including calling something a “good question.” We’re saying certain questions are the ones they should keep asking. And that they should stop asking the “bad” ones.
Instead, honor all questions, whether strange or magnificent, silly or profound. If something catches you off-guard, encourage conversation and say, “That’s interesting.” Ask them what they think.
In treating all questions as valid, you’re encouraging your child to keep asking. All without wondering if it’s worth asking or not.
Admit your own curiosity
“How do bees make honey?” my four-year-old asked me the other week.
[Pause] “You know, I have no idea,” I replied. “When we get home, let’s look it up on the computer and see how exactly they do that.”
We don’t know all the answers, and we do a dishonesty to our kids in assuming we do.
They should see us stumped or curious about the same questions they wonder about. They’ll feel better knowing these are questions you’re willing to ask and learn about as well.
They’ll also know that learning is a never-ending practice. We don’t reach a particular age or graduate from school having learned everything. There’s always something to question.
Keep asking questions
Encourage thinking and wondering in your little philosopher. From religion and life to space and the universe. From feelings and emotions to the elements of the earth. These are all valid questions each of us have wondered about, yet stopped asking when we grew up.
And your child will grow up. He may stop asking the same questions he did as a five-year-old. He may have learned exactly why the clouds are as high as they are or have a better grasp of time.
But a child who asks and questions will be an adult dissatisfied with complacency. He’ll thrive on constant learning and curiosity instead.
After all, asking these questions have led to some of the world’s best inventions, cures, theories and solutions. Don’t hold your child back from these aspirations. Instead, encourage these questions, no matter how “annoying” they may seem.
Get more tips about communicating with your child:
- Homework Tips for Parents: Crucial Mistakes You Should Definitely Avoid
- How to Keep Your Child Learning in the Summer
- What Every Kindergartener Should Know by the End of the Year
- Small Habits, Big Results: 8 Long Term Benefits of Reading to Your Child
- How to Raise a Smart Child
Your turn: What are some of the questions your kids have asked? How do you think our responses can affect their curiosity? Why do you think kids stop asking philosophical questions as they grow up? Let me know in the comments below.