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Toddler Talk: Questions

My husband and I often have conversations about how many questions we think our son asks us in a given day. Truthfully, the never-ending questioning actually prompted me to explore if any research has been conducted on the topic, which to my delight exists! In answer to my question, the average mom is asked almost 300 questions a day, which works out to a question every two minutes or so of their children’s waking hours!

So, while I understand that toddlers ask incessant questions as part of their development and growth, I find myself wondering how often we ask our children unnecessary questions. As part of play therapy and filial therapy, I teach parents effective techniques and skills to use with their kids during play, including specific rules of thumb.

One of these rules is, “If you know enough to ask a question, you know enough to make a statement.” In other words, most of the time we use questions to confirm what we already think or believe to be true. In these instances, we can change our question into a statement, to the benefit of the child in several ways.

First, children live by their emotions. Asking a question of them requires them to process cognitively, putting them in their heads. This actually prevents them from fully experiencing and making sense of their feelings in their play.

Second, the questions that we ask in an attempt to validate our opinion often garner one word answers from our children because they are closed-ended in nature. When we change the same sentiment into a statement, it can result in the child elaborating with more detail because the emotion was correctly identified and she wants to explain it more.

Finally, in light of the previous article on reflecting feelings, it is a very simple process to acknowledge an emotion in your child and reap the benefits of an expanding emotional vocabulary and broader understanding of feelings, which always involves a statement rather than a question.

So, changing questions into statements might look like this:

“Are you scared?” becomes, “Wow, that scared you!”

“What is wrong?” becomes, “You are really upset.”

“Why did you do that?” becomes, “I wonder why you did that.”

Notice that a question revolving around an emotion can be a feeling reflection, and a question about behavior or motivation can use the “I wonder …” statement. In either instance, the child is offered the opportunity to share or expound on the play without putting her on the spot, distracting her from her emotions, or sounding interrogative. This typically results in more information shared than had the original question been asked, which is a win-win for both sides!

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