Parenting: How do you respond to a child who asks lots of questions?

How Do You Respond to a Child Who Asks Lots of Questions?

How Do You Respond to a Child Who Asks Lots of Questions?

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July 13 2015 7:28 AM

How Do You Respond to a Child Who Asks Lots of Questions?

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A baby-sitter reads to her charges on July 16, 2014, near Paris.

Photo by Stephane de Sakutin/AFP/Getty Images

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Answer by Shefaly Yogendra, engineer, MBA with a Ph.D. in decision-making:

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Count your blessings! A curious and intelligent child is a gift to cherish and do one's best with.

I have been that child. Thanks to my father's vast knowledge, enormous patience, and immense creativity, I developed both curiosity and the lack of hesitation in asking about things I do not know.

Here was the tool kit he used. You might find it useful too.

He answered my questions using words, pictures, and things. He was never discouraging, dismissing, or otherwise obfuscating. This means I learned about the insides of a water pump at the tender age of 6. Why? Because I asked how it worked, and he showed me the insides of the pump.

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He encouraged me to look things up in a time of dictionaries and encyclopedias on paper.

And he used my questions as an opportunity to educate. When a headline in the newspaper announced “Mountbatten Assassinated,” I wanted to know what those two words were. I was duly asked to look up assassinate in the dictionary. (For what it's worth, many high-profile politicians and political leaders being assassinated punctuated the childhoods of my generation—from Anwar Sadat to Olof Palme to Indira Gandhi, to name a few, so it was a useful word to acquire early.*) And then there was a discussion about Northern Ireland and the history of its relationship with the English. A history lesson from a headline in the newspaper!

He let me read books as far as I could reach. Soon I learned to put chairs on top of things and stretch my reach. Many of my questions were answered by story books and other printed matter on the shelves.

He did not let his ego stand in the way of my curiosity, and I was encouraged to ask questions of people who could answer them better than he could. Let's just say that my chatty time with my paediatrician, whom I still remember, and with my dentist was most educational. I learned so much about understanding what not being well meant and related topics as a kid under 10 can.

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He recognized and calibrated my emotional intelligence correctly, seeking neither to coddle me nor expose me to things I categorically refused to be interested in. This is a crucial skill not just for a parent but for early carers and teachers too.

And above all, don't forget to enjoy being in the presence of a delightful child, who may yet change your perspective on the world.

*Correction, July 14, 2015: This post originally misspelled Olof Palme’s first name.