Anyone with small children recognizes they spend a fair amount of their day answering question. Lots of questions. An absurd amount of questions. And those questions, which often come at rapid fire speed, can range anywhere from the simple “what’s for lunch?” to the slightly awkward “why don’t I pee standing up?” to the more complicated “what’s Heaven like?” If you have more than one child, the amount of questions doubles exponentially. Toddlers ask about everything. It’s how they learn about the world around them. And for the most part, I’m more than happy to indulge any and all of my daughter’s questions. I find her curiosity about the world endearing and wonderful. But at some point, is it possible for children to ask too many questions?
The concept of a child asking too many questions never occurred to me until I saw a friend of mine post a series of updates on her Facebook page documenting her family’s progress in getting her kindergarten-aged son to ask no more than two questions on any given subject during a conversation. It was a recommendation from her son’s teacher as the boy’s constant questions had begun to disrupt the class. They began practicing this technique at home, and the mom was quite proud of the progress her son had made, believing that because he knew his questions were limited, he asked better, more complex questions instead of just asking “why”.
What??? Limiting young children to two questions on any particular topic??? Was this for real??? Just last week my daughter and I had a half hour conversation, which included no less than 55 questions, about why my favorite color is black and her father’s is purple.
The more I asked around about the subject, the more I found that lots of parents apply this limited questions technique as a way to encourage and develop critical thinking skills in preschool aged children. If children know they can only ask a certain number of questions, they are more inclined to think through the questions before they ask them. Parents with more than one child found it particularly useful as it keeps one child from monopolizing all the conversations and allows the other children to participate as well. Apparently my daughter’s preschool applies a similar question-limiting strategy throughout the day as a way of maintaining order in the classroom. Looking at it that way, I suppose my daughter and I didn’t really need to spend 30 minutes discussing the complex nature of my favorite color…
But aren’t the constant questions what childhood is all about? Am I really doing my child a huge disservice and stifling her critical thinking skills if I let her ask me 42 questions about our trash man? To be honest, I’m quite impressed that she can come up with 42 completely different questions about who our trash man is, how he got his job, who taught him how to use the truck, what does he do when the trash is too big, why does he drive on the wrong side of the truck, does he take the garbage truck to the grocery store… you get the point. Aren’t those kinds of conversations just as valuable as forcing her to condense all those thoughts into two succinct questions and then move on to a new subject?
So can children ask too many questions? As parents is it better if we encourage our kids to ask lots of questions or if we limit their questions so that they have to thoroughly think through an issue before asking?
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