You're at the grocery store and your kid asks you why carrots are orange. Then, on your way out to the car, he wants to know how many cars there are in the whole entire world. And on your drive home, it's a million (OK, more like five) questions about what you think his friend Charlie is doing right now. While on one level, you applaud your mini's curiosity, on another—it's exhausting (especially when you're trying to put away two gallons of ice cream and start the pasta water).
But here's the thing—while these questions may seem totally random, they're actually opportunities to gain valuable insight into what's going on in your kid's head. And while it's tempting to immediately respond with an “I don’t know” for every query, Rachel Lugo, a licensed professional counselor at The Watson Institute in Pittsburgh, has a better suggestion. She urges you to listen to your child's thoughts instead and answer with, “what do you think?”
“It can be wearying at times to be constantly peppered with questions, however, it’s important for parents to keep in mind that when a kid asks a question, it’s a clue into their thoughts and values,” says Lugo. “By turning a question around, you have the opportunity to get to know your child—and their inner workings—better. You just might be surprised!”
For instance, maybe he had a fight with Charlie yesterday and needs to talk about it. Or perhaps he's worried that Charlie is playing with another friend instead of him. Then again, maybe all the Charlie questions are just a result of driving past Charlie's house on the way back from the supermarket. Whatever the case may be, your interest in the conversation signals that your child's worldview matters. So don't discount it.
Moreover, Lugo says that it's important for parents to take advantage of these small opportunities to build on the relationship and teach children the value of working through their own questions.