There comes a point in every parents life where they are asked questions by their children that they may or may not have the answers to. Once children are at an age where they communicate with words, kids begin to ask many, many, many, many, many questions – sometimes to the point of exhaustion for parents! You’ve heard it over and over again… “But why?” Children ask questions (just like adults) for very good reasons – to learn and make sense of their new world around them.
I know this first hand through working with children as a Child and Family Therapist as well as being a parent myself. Our automatic response when a child asks us a question is to answer it for them, but what if there was a much better way to teach our children? What if we could help them build many other skills by asking THEM questions? As a therapist, I ask questions and I do this for many reasons. Some of which include, quite simply to break people’s thinking patterns that are keeping them stuck as well as help people learn skills such as executive functioning skills (working memory, reasoning, flexibility, etc.).
When your child asks you a question, ask them “What do you think?” “What are your thoughts about that? Have them begin to think about it first before you automatically respond with an answer. By asking this simple question, you are indirectly helping them learn how to problem solve and problem solving is one of life’s critical skills to learn. They may at first wonder what is up as this will be new to them, but the more and more you do it, the less and less they will ask you and begin to answer their own questions. You can of course help guide them, but ultimately you want them to begin thinking in a way where they aren’t just automatically looking to you for the answers. If a child has difficulty coming up with their own answers, then gently make suggestions for them and then have them choose which one makes most sense. This helps them cultivate their sense of autonomy and confidence which is what every parent wants for their child.
If you or your child don’t know the answer to a question (which happens often), research it together and learn something new with one another. After all, isn’t that what life is all about – learning and teaching at every age!
Remember, each time your child asks you a question see it as an opportunity to ask them a question back and in doing so you are teaching them much more than just the answer to their question – you are teaching them many, many life skills.
Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/clmommsen/15427483486/