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Too Many Questions can Upset Children

by Patricia Koh, Founder-Director

My 4 1/2 –year-old daughter rarely talks about her activities in school, and she does not seem to know how to recount events accurately. For example, if I ask her what she did in school on a particular day, she either describes an imaginary scene or recounts a previous event. If another child asks her if she will be at a certain place the next day, she either does not know how to reply or does not check with me.

Whilst I understand each child is different, my friend's daughter of the same age seems to be more capable of having a constructive conversation. 

Is her behaviour normal for a child her age?

MY EXPERIENCE with children tells me your daughter is perfectly all right. Children are naturally spontaneous, creative and imaginative. Unfortunately, adults use too many parameters to measure their progress and development and tend to compare one to another.

Most children do not always respond the way we want them to. For example, if we ask a child 'What did you learn in school today?’, we are very likely to get the answer 'Nothing' or 'Nothing very much'. These are also the same answers your spouse will give you after a hard day’s work when you ask him or her, 'Did anything interesting happen at work today?'.

At the end of a long day, most of us need a ‘wind-down time’ when we may not feel like answering questions. However, when we see our children, we usually quite immediately ask about their day with questions such as 'what did your teacher teach you today?', 'do you have any homework?', 'did anyone get punished today?', 'was your teacher absent today?' and so on.

When confronted with such questions, some children may remain quiet whilst others may respond with near accurate answers, frustrate parents with imaginative stories or use them as opportunities to gain attention from their parents. For example, some children may decide not to give intelligent answers because they will then receive more attention from concerned parents and teachers.

Try not to fret over how your daughter responds because she is likely to outgrow it as she matures. You could also try to have a conversation with her without asking too many questions. Start by sharing your own experiences in the day and this might jolt her memory, and encourage her to share her day with you. When there is no pressure to report accurately, your child may feel more at ease chatting about her doings and feelings.

Please also remember not to say 'Are you sure you got your facts right?' or 'Are you making this up?', during a conversation with your child.

Finally, relax and play along with your child and allow her to experience the creative and imaginative use of language.

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