As adults, we ask our children questions every day:
‘What did you learn today in Mandarin class?’
‘Why did you do that?’
‘Sorry, honey, what did you say?’
Here are some strategies that can be helpful:
Listen actively: When you are communicating with a child, a useful strategy is to remind yourself to focus on using your eyes and your mind, as well as your ears. True listening involves actually receiving what they are saying, rather than making assumptions or ‘half-listening’. Eye contact and the repetition of the question signal your interest and attention.
Treat the answers to questions you ask them seriously: sometimes children struggle to explain what they mean, or will say something that you think is irrelevant or inappropriate. By using their own words back to them, supported by open body language, you can help them to puzzle out what the problem might be and then work together to move forward. It’s important to be patient and to avoid leaping in and providing them with your own solution. Let your child complete their thought and avoid guessing as this can create a negative impact on effective communication.
Instead of making statements and direct observations. try to develop a habit of being curious. For example:
● ‘What colour is this?’
● ‘What does this colour make you think of?’ ….’It makes me think of…..’
● ‘That’s really interesting: Can you tell me more?’
● ‘I wonder, what do you think this colour would smell like?’
When children ask you questions, they are taking an active role in their own learning and trying to figure out how the world works. They want to know why the sky is blue, why they have to go to school and why they can’t stay up as late as grown-ups. The way in which you respond will help to develop their critical thinking skills and ignite their capacity for learning. It also reassures them that you take their questions seriously, even if they are driving you crazy!