The Honest Mommy

Uncensored thoughts on parenting & more

Dealing with a 4yo’s endless questions July 1, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — lotsofopinions @ 1:31 pm
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Adam, who is almost 4 years old, asks lots and lots of questions. Sometimes he seems genuinely curious to know how something works or why something happened. Other times, he seems to want to just hear himself talk (and engage his dad or me in the process). Listening to and answering the genuine questions can be tiring, as all parents know; dealing with the other type of questions can be downright exhausting and aggravating.

Adam asks more of the “aggravating” questions when he is low on sleep. I theorize that because he doesn’t feel too great, physically and emotionally, he wants to constantly engage Mom or Dad into his world to make things more bearable for himself. Another factor is often his desire to exert control. If he can engage Mom or Dad with him, and perhaps aggravate Mom or Dad in the process, then he has some control over his world.

As the parent, I have to decide how to deal with the constant stream of questions. My goals are to

  • show respect for his curiosity
  • provide information in response to his inquiries (“Where does snow come from?”)
  • teach him that Mom and Dad are not always, 100% of the time, available to him for his wants (as opposed to his needs). That is, just because he WANTS Mom’s attention at a given moment doesn’t mean that he’s going to get it.
  • and further, that there is a difference between a genuine question and other questions, and that he will get a more positive response to genuine questions. (If he asks, “Did you put honey in it?” the moment after he observes me putting honey in his oatmeal, this is different from asking “Where does honey come from?”)

John Rosemond has a technique for dealing with endless questions, which I have instituted this morning, in an effort to conserve my sanity so it lasts past 11:00 a.m. I taped five strips of paper to a kitchen cabinet. Each strip is a “question ticket” which Adam can use to get an answer to a question. I told Adam that these tickets are what he has available to him from now until lunchtime, and that when he runs out of tickets, I won’t answer any more questions unless I deem it necessary. (Note, I don’t charge a ticket for questions such as “Can I go outside to play?”)

Here is how it works:

     Adam: blah blah blah blah blah, then what would we do?

     Mom: Question ticket?

    Adam: No. {Exchange ends here.}

So far, so good. Adam caught on immediately that he wasn’t going to get much of a payoff for his endless inquiries, aside from my rather blah response of “Question ticket?”

I am aware of how politically incorrect it is to treat every one of a child’s questions with anything other than awe and respect. But I believe that there is a lot going on here besides a child’s natural curiosity, and for that reason, a more complex response is called for.

The bottom line is that as a parent, I have a responsibility to teach my child about boundaries (Mom and Dad aren’t at his beck and call) and about the need for him to exert self-control (in other words, for him to not blurt out every single thing that comes to his mind). In the process, I also have a responsiblity to show my child the curiosity is a good thing, and that he can learn about the world around him by asking questions.


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