Do your kids bother you with question after question? Learn why a child’s constant questions are actually good, and what you can do to nurture it.
“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. Maybe you don’t know how to explain how humans came to be or why life even started on earth. Other times, your child’s constant questions do seem a bit silly or nonsensical.
And it doesn’t make answering these questions when you’re busy and over-scheduled as it is.
Instead, we end up discussing things that “make sense.” Stuff that happened at school, what they want to eat for dinner, and where your child put her teddy bear. You know, real stuff.
Why your child’s constant questions are actually good
If you find yourself a bit annoyed at your child’s constant questions, consider this:
These are the very questions that many philosophers and academics ask. People have written books and journals about time, botany, and love, but we certainly 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, and see philosophy as a luxury career, one left for “smart” people to sort. But here are our kids asking questions, determined to make sense of our world.
And what are some of our typical reactions when they constantly ask questions? We…
- get annoyed.
- don’t take their questions seriously.
- rush through an answer.
- don’t encourage further thought.
- judge their questions.
The result? They stop asking philosophical and worldly questions, usually around the 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 praise with “Great question!” and others we smirk or ignore. Parents aren’t alone, either—their peers, teachers and family might do the same.
So, how can we nurture the philosopher in them, even as they grow up?
1. Respect the question
Do you respect your child’s questions? You may not mean to, but perhaps certain questions elicit strange looks or reactions from you. Maybe household stress or work don’t give you the time or patience to answer her.
I’ll be the first to admit that I still have to catch myself in how I respond to my kids’ questions, no matter how bizarre or nonsensical they might be. They’ve asked questions in all earnest about things that seemed like odd questions to ask.
But if we look at the question, we realize how deep and inquisitive children truly can be.
Respect your child’s question the next time she asks. Don’t brush it off or don’t give fluff answers to keep her quiet. Give it your best shot to answer the question, and suggest looking up an answer if you don’t know. And make her feel like she can ask questions without judgment.
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2. Don’t say “good question”
Sometimes I can’t stop myself from saying “good,” from “good job!” to “great question!”
On the surface, praising your child’s question as “good” makes sense: you want him to feel good for asking, and praise him for being so inquisitive.
But here’s the problem with labeling a question as “good”: You’re adding unnecessary judgment.
When we think about judgment, we imagine negative things, but judgment also applies to positive phrases, including calling something a “good question.”
Why? We’re implying that these certain questions are the ones they should keep asking. And that if there are “good” questions, then that also means there are “bad” ones to avoid.
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 him what he thinks.
In treating all questions as valid, you’re encouraging him to keep asking, all without making him wonder if it’s worth asking or not.
3. Admit your own curiosity
“How do bees make honey?” my son asked me one day.
“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.”
How bees make honey is just one of the many questions I had no idea how to answer (now I do after looking it up!). I don’t exactly know how many moons each planet has, and only know a handful of our states’ capitals. And forget about questions without a specific answer.
The thing is, we don’t know all the answers, and we do a dishonesty to our kids in making it seem like we do.
Instead, 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.
And most importantly, they’ll 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 and learn about, even as an adult.
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. She may stop asking the same questions she did as a five-year-old. She may have learned exactly why the clouds are as high as they are or have a better grasp of how time works.
But a child who asks and questions will be an adult dissatisfied with complacency. She’ll thrive on constant learning and curiosity and push her boundaries instead.
After all, asking these questions have led to some of the world’s best inventions, cures, theories and solutions. Don’t hold her back from these aspirations. Instead, encourage these questions, no matter how often she asks them.
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
- 8 Long Term Benefits of Reading to Your Child
- How to Raise a Smart Child
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