Monday, 20 October 2014

Answering Kid's Questions - DON'T DO IT!!!

In a previous post, we talked about how to reduce the persistent "Daddy?.. Daddy?.. Daddy?.." of a child with a question to ask. Let's take a look at how to answer their questions... or not!

We know that children are better than adults at certain tasks, and science has proven why they can figure out gadgets more quickly than adults. Have you ever played 'Concentration' or 'Pairs' with a 4 year old?  They are formidable opponents at this age.

But the sum total of their knowledge is not broad, and they ask questions to help them grow their knowledge.

This can be frustrating for a parent. A 4 year old girl might ask upwards of 300 questions per day.

So how do you answer these questions, to give your child the best start in life?

I'll define two approaches, and you can decide which approach to take at each opportunity. There is no one answer, but the more you can use 'Approach 2', the more you are teaching them a skill, rather than imparting a piece of knowledge.

Approach 1

The simple answer!  Example...

Q. "Dad... what's for dinner?"
A. "Lasagne and salad."

Informative, quick and easy answer. Learning value out of 10 ? 2 out of 10.

Approach 2

The challenge !

Q. "Dad... what's for dinner?"
A. "Can you guess, from the ingredients on the worktop?"
A. "What food has layers of pasta in it?"
A. "And what could we have on the side with our Lasagne?"

Teaches the skill of deduction, forward-thinking, and to work out answers for themselves. Learning value ? 5 out of 10.

So now we can apply the same approach to something more, erm ... meaty!

Try this on the list of top 'Difficult Questions' from a survey back in 2010.

Number 1: How is electricity made ?

Approach 1

Q. "Dad... how is electricity made?"
A. "There is a big windmill, and the wind blows the windmill round. The windmill blades are connected to a turbine, which is like a backwards electric motor, and that makes electricity which is sent down the power cables into our house."

Simplified and easy to understand. Learning value: 4 ?

Approach 2

Q. "Dad... how is electricity made?"
A. "Do you know anything that makes electricity?"
--  "The windmill at the business park?"
A. "How does it turn the wind into electricity?"
--  "With an electric motor?"
A. "That's right, but electric motors normally use-up electricity don't they? How is that one different?"
--  "It's backwards ?"

And so the conversation continues. With the child being encouraged to think about the problem, to uncover the knowledge. Learning Value: 8 ?

BONUS TIP: If you don't know the answer to a question, which approach is going to work best? Yep, Approach 2. Because if at any stage you find you can't guide the child towards the answer, you can both look up the information. The child not only uses his/her skills to find the answer, but also feels great by teaching their parent something they didn't know!

Now... a word of warning.... Approach 2 takes longer. Much longer! If you are trying to get your children out of the door to school, or trying to get them into bed on time, then either postpone the discussion, or skip to Approach 1.

And Approach 2 takes a bit of getting used to, for adults and children alike. Be prepared to encounter a bucket full of "I dunno"s and "Can't you just tell me the answer?"s. But stick with it. It takes time for them to build their skills, but it is very, very worth it - the first time they work something out on their own!

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