“Why Not to Answer all your Child’s Questions”  by Krista Kerr, Pohutukawa Teacher

I read an interesting article recently entitled ‘Seven Reasons to not Answer your Child’s Questions.’ The main point of this article was that answering all of your child’s questions is similar to complying with all their requests. When your child asks “Can you put on my shoes/make my lunch/tidy my room…” you have two options:

1.      There are times when you will help and comply with the request; if you know that in this moment it really is too much to ask of your child, or if making them tie their own laces means that everyone will be late for school for example. This is fine – we all need help with even the smallest of tasks sometimes, or

2.      Standing back, providing just as much support, encouragement or guidance that your child needs to finish. This allows them to feel the satisfaction of achieving completion of a task, as well as helping them to understand that they need to put the effort in if they want to reach this achievement.

It is the same with their questions. You could answer every question, thereby demonstrating to your child that they are able to ask about the unknown and that someone will always be there to tell them the answer. However, this does not help your child to hypothesize, wonder, research, discuss or problem solve. It does not help your child to be independent in their learning or take delight in making their own discoveries.

Instead of always giving them the answer you could instead require that they put in some effort. Instead of telling them the answer, turn the question back on them with a line like “that is an interesting question. Why do you think ….?”

Wonder with them, listen to their theories, guide them with further questions and suggest where they may find further information (appropriate to their age) or include others in the conversation so that they can bounce ideas off each other. Two children together can come up with answers and theories that, although sometimes not the ‘right’ answer, make perfect sense when we listen to them and understand the thinking behind those answers.

For tamariki, especially the very young, they not only love to wonder and hypothesize about questions and problems, but love to see, feel, hear and touch them also. For example, if a child asks “how does a lawnmower cut the grass?” it is easier for us as adults to say “well, there is a blade which turns around very fast and it cuts the grass.” Some tamariki may leave it at that and move on straight away, but some of you know that there are tamariki who will then ask “but how does the blade turn around?” “What is a blade?” “Why does it make a loud noise?” and any and all other questions they can think off. Another ‘answer’ to this question may be to go out with your child, turn over the lawnmower and together examine the parts of a lawnmower. Give them a lesson in how to be safe, let them see the blade, start it up and allow them to hear and see the engine at work.

Just as with physical requests, I’m not suggesting that we never give our tamariki a straight forward, factual answer, but I wonder how many times we do this without thinking, not realizing that sometimes giving tamariki the answer to their questions is actually hindering their learning instead of helping it?


To read the full article go to http://childrengrowing.com/2014/07/15/seven-reasons-to-not-always-answer-your-childs-questions/