How often do your children ask you a question and after you spend a great deal of time explaining it to them they give you a puzzled look and walk away. Probably one of the most dangerous things we do is listen to our children as though the meaning behind their words comes from an adult place of understanding. Our children of today are very, very, verbal. They experience so much input in our audio world and they use these words they learn based on what experiences they have had. Rarely are they asking the question with the same thinking that you possess.
A classic example – A little preschooler comes home and tells his mother that a thousand “months” ago an asteroid came down and made the dinosaurs “stink”. And they still “stink” today. So in this example the little boy heard a story and used his experiences to create his story. We talk about the days of the month a lot, but we don’t talk about years very often. The idea of something becoming extinct would probably be a new idea and so he used the word “stink” because that works in his vocabulary.
We can teach letters and words and read stories, but children really need to have a lot of experiences so when they are confronted by new information they have a reference point to receive and understand it.
My Granddaughter asks a lot of questions, and when my daughter gives her an answer it often upsets her. They recently lost their old dog and so they went out and bought the book called the Rainbow Bridge. In this book all the animals live in a field and wait for their human owner to pass away and then they walk across the rainbow bridge together and enter heaven. So Carter asked, “Is Toby in Heaven?” My daughter told her, “No he’s waiting for us, so when we die he’ll go across the bridge with us.” And then Carter got really upset, “We’re going to die? When? Are we going together? Is it happening soon?” My daughter was surprised by how upset Carter had gotten and wasn’t sure how to back pedal her way out of it.
This is such a classic example of giving our children too much information without really realizing that we’re doing it. She told me the story and said I’m not sure what to do when she asks so many questions. My advice to her was to always answer their question with another question. When you do this it gives you a better understanding of what they really wanted to know. If your child comes up with a feasible answer to their own question, you can just say, “That sounds good.” Or “That makes sense.” In this way the young child has an idea to work with, feels good that they came up with an answer, and hasn’t been given information that they really weren’t looking for in the first place.