So, as a continuation of my last post about why we need to stop asking kids questions and make statements instead, I think it is equally important to acknowledge that when kids ask questions, they are making statements, too!
Wait… hang on! We are finally wrapping our heads around turning our own questions into statements, and now we are switching gears and trying to figure out what the meaning is in kids’ questions? Yes and yes! Here is why it is significant and important.
Just like there is truth in every joke, there are emotions and intentions in every question. Especially for kids, who are governed by their present experiences and feelings more than anything else. When they ask a question, it is easy to simply answer it. But it takes intentionality and awareness to dig deeper into the root of the question and respond with a reflection of that!
Example 1 –
It is very common that after a few weeks of coming to the play room, kids will begin to make sense of why they are there. They need to normalize their need to come play, know that they are not alone, believe that what they play with isn’t unique to them. So, almost without fail, kids end up saying something like:
“How many kids come play here?” or “Do other kids play with the jump rope?” or “Do only young kids play or do you have 11 year olds?”
Instead of responding with, “Yes!”, I will respond with a reflection of the deeper meaning behind the question. So I will say: “You are wondering if you are the only one who does this.” The amazing thing is that the reflection almost always satisfies the child, without him ever receiving the actual answer. It is enough to know that I get that they are worried that there is something different about them.
Example 2 –
Another scenario that happens frequently is a child asks me questions about the playroom or the toys. They want to understand why they have never experienced anything like a play therapist in a playroom before. They ask questions like:
“Do you sit all day and watch kids play?” or “Where did you get all of these toys?” or “How much did all of this cost – are you rich?”
Again, the simple answer is obvious, but I reply with an acknowledgment of their need. I reply with: “You don’t understand why my job is just to play with kids.” or “You think it was expensive to buy all of these toys because I have so many!”
Example 3 –
A final example that occurs almost daily is kids want validation and acknowledgement about something they did or made, and ask me what I think about it. They need the verbal praise that they are used to receiving and ask me for it. They say:
“Do you love my painting?” or “Did I do it right?” or “Is it beautiful?”
A brief affirmation is easy, but that doesn’t help the child process anything about internal motivation. So, my replies are: “You want to know what I think about what you made.” or “You hope that I like it.”
The more you think about why your child is asking a question, the better you begin to understand her. In other words, providing a truthful answer is the common response but it does not offer any deeper connection between you and your child. And your child does not hear his needs reflected back so that he begins to understand what he is really wanting to know.
So, the next time your child asks you for the seventh time, “Why can’t I watch TV?”, you can accurately respond with: “You are sad that you can’t watch TV.” or “You really wish I would change my mind.”
Or, in the car when your child questions, “Are we there yet?”, you can turn and say: “You are so bored.” or “You want this road trip to be over as soon as possible.” And in every reflection of meaning behind the question, you and your child begin to communicate on a much deeper and more significant level.