Tuesday, October 11, 2016

What Am I Supposed To Say? (How to Understand Your Young Child's Questions)

Kids are inquisitive and ask many questions. This is important, because it’s one of the ways they learn. But should all of a child’s questions be answered every time? 

Many parents come to me for advice on this issue. Trying to be good role models, they attempt to be truthful with their children at all times. However, some information is not meant for little minds and therefore needs to be delayed a few years. So what do you tell a small child when he/she asks an important question?  Here is some helpful advice:

Listen for what the child is really saying. When a child asks a question, he/she is basically communicating something to you. Listen for the emotion behind the question. Recently, a mother of a 4 year old contacted me because the child’s father had been put in jail. The father had been absent most of the child’s life and there wasn’t much of a bond there.  However, the child would occasionally ask where daddy was. The mother didn’t want to lie, but she knew the child would not understand the entire truth. When I asked her what she thought the child was really saying, she said she thought her child missed daddy. One response to “Where is daddy?” for this particular child would be, “You are really missing your daddy right now.”

Wait for the child’s response. Once you identify the feeling and what the child is really saying and you have communicated this to the child, wait for the child’s response. In some cases you will be dead wrong. The child says, “No, I want to go to Chad’s party this weekend instead of going with daddy.” In most cases, the child will feel relieved that the parent understands what they are feeling and the questions will stop. Or the child might say, “Yes, because he promised to take me to the park” - or something that further clarifies what they are feeling. Children don’t often mean what you think they are asking. 

Choose your next words carefully. If identifying your child’s feelings seem to do the trick, you’re pretty much good to go. However, some children continue to ask their questions until they get the response they want. In the example above, the child might respond, “Yes, but where IS daddy?” It is important to continue finding out what your child is really saying by digging a bit. You might say, “You’re REALLY wanting to know where your daddy is.”  Then wait again. If the line of questions continues, you will eventually have to give them a truthful answer. But sometimes the child may further clarify why they are asking, “Yes, because I drew him a picture and I want to give it to him.” When you dig a bit more and learn more of the emotion behind the question, you can give the proper response: “Well, why don’t we put it in an envelope and mail it to him? I’ll bet he will love to get a surprise from you in the mail!”

Only answer the questions your child is asking. By taking the time to find out exactly what your child is asking, many times you will feel relieved to know that you did not have to divulge information that was too advanced for your child. The child will feel relief because the simple question they were asking was actually answered for them. 

When I work with children, I never answer their questions without digging for more information. I often get, “Do other kids come to play in here?” To which I respond, “You’re curious about that.” If the line of questions continues, I understand that the child really wants to know if others come in my playroom. Then my response is “Yes, other kids come to play in here.”

Take the time to fully listen to your children so you can give an appropriate response.
“The wise heart will know the proper time and procedure...for every matter.” Eccl. 8:5-6 NIV

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