Did you know that there are questions preschoolers have trouble answering?
Questions like, “How was your day?” is something that I ask my husband all the time, but for preschoolers, that’s a really hard question to answer. If you ask that question to a child, you might get a blank stare or they might say, “I don’t know.” The trick to getting preschoolers to listen is learning how to ask the question….
10 Questions Preschoolers Can’t Answer
Don’t Ask: How was your day?
- This question is just too BIG and too vague (I know it’s hard for ME to answer that question, too!). Instead, try asking something specific that you know always happens at school or wherever your child has been, like “did you play in the block area or use the paints today?”
Don’t Ask: Are you lying?
- There’s normally one of two reasons why they can’t answer this one:
- Preschoolers can’t tell between what’s really happening around them and what they are thinking about. So, the thoughts in their head (like dragons, monsters, princess, etc.) are quite literally real to them ~ it’s called magical thinking. That’s why preschoolers might appear to be lying about something when in actuality, they just think it really happened. They don’t have a concept of lying yet like an older child will have.
- Oh, and sometimes, they just don’t want to get in trouble and try to save face. For example, they might deny it when you ask “Did you just eat my cookie??” “Uh…NOPE!”<— I wouldn’t want to get in trouble either.
Don’t Ask: Why are you acting like that?
- This is tough. I want to ask my kids this a lot, but again, it’s too vague. They are too young to recognize and articulate how their thoughts and bodies are working together. If you feel like asking this one, stop and try to figure out why you are so frustrated. Then, try talking with your child.
Don’t Ask: What were you thinking?
- This one is similar to the question above. Remember to check in with yourself. This is one of those questions that always reminds me that I’m feeling frustrated. As much as we want to have an explanation, most of the time preschoolers are acting too quickly to actually think about what they are doing.
Don’t Ask: Why are you so upset? (or mad or angry or…)
- Preschoolers have BIG emotions. I try to remind myself that they are growing so quickly and they are trying to process SO much, but they are still so little! With this one, I try to hug my kids or give them space and say, “let me know when you’re ready to talk.”
Don’t Ask: Can you eat this?
- A kid with allergies will answer this without any hesitation! But, most kids can’t really answer this one. Instead, try asking “Does mommy or daddy let you eat this?” or “Do you eat anything like this at home?”
Don’t Ask: Why won’t you listen??
- I can give you a million reasons why a preschooler won’t listen. But, when you want to ask this question, it’s time to check in with yourself again and ask why you are so upset. What is it specifically that they are doing that is driving you insane?
Don’t Ask: Why can’t you finish what you’ve started?
- Because they are little! Preschoolers shouldn’t and don’t need to sit and complete something. If they really need to finish something, leave it out for them and let them know that it will be there when they are ready to come back to it.
Don’t Ask: How come you can’t fall asleep?
- This is a sensitive one and there are so many reasons why a child can’t sleep. Sleep comes when they are sleepy, but kids have to learn what it feels like to be sleepy. Often times, there is a disconnect between “feeling sleepy” and falling asleep. So, kids don’t feel tired when they really are. Have you ever seen a kid running around with pupils dilated when they really should be asleep?! They just haven’t learned how to respond to feeling tired yet and get an adrenaline rush, instead!
Don’t Ask: Why are you always asking questions?
- Because they are preschoolers! And, preschoolers are full of questions. What I always say is, “Hmmm…what do you think?” and throw the question back to them so that I don’t get too drained from millions of questions each day! Or, try making your own book of questions. It’s such a wonderful way to honor your child’s questions without going insane!
So, HOW Do You Ask a Preschooler a Question?
- Be specific – open-ended questions (what, where, why…) don’t work with most preschoolers. Instead, make an specific observation: “I saw you doing (x), what did that mean when you did (x)?”
- Be patient – I try counting to 5 slowly or taking a deep breath after I ask a question to give my kids enough time to answer.
- Be reflective – Why are you asking the child the question? Is it because you really need to know or is it because you’re frustrated with their behavior? I often say, “Why did you do that?!” to my kids. Firstly, they can’t really answer that question (see #4) and, secondly, I say that out of frustration, not to really come up with a solution. Check in with yourself before you push for an answer.
- Follow Up – If you don’t get an answer, let them know that you’ll try asking them again later. You may be able to get an answer at a different time! But, if it’s a pressing issue, I often say, “okay, I’ll sit here and wait until you’re ready to talk.” But, really mean it ~ you’ve got to sit and wait! It helps with kids who avoid talking about things when they are in trouble. Sometimes I’ll mention to them, “You’re not in trouble, this is just something we need to talk about…” and it helps to open them up.
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