Saturday, November 9, 2013

Asking questions about asking questions


Three and half years into this parenting gig, and that's the one that STILL tricks me up the most.

Cole has entered the "WHY?" stage of his little life.  You know that random fact that four year olds ask over 300 questions in a day?  Yuh-huh.  It's totally true.  Question after question after question. you may think I'm crazy, but I was totally looking forward to this part.  Answering questions! Encouraging curiosity! Teaching him how to research and discover and learn! What's not to love, right?  Not to mention how much I knew it would challenge me as a parent, to think and explain things on his level - so awesome!  I envisioned Cole asking questions and me taking him to the library to read a book about it, or googling pictures to illustrate a point...  I have a lifelong love of learning, and it's definitely a quality that I aim to instill in my children.

But...then the stage hit.  And in actuality?  I spend half my day answering questions like, "WHERE'S MAMA?" (when I'm literally sitting RIGHT next to him...), "MAMA, I HAVE A QUESTION...I CAN GO ON A WALK?" (he asks this question about fifty times a day, no matter if I've already answered it or if we have already walked that day...), and "I JUST GAVE NALA A HUG...WHY DID I JUST GIVE NALA A HUG?" (umm...cause you wanted to??), "YOU JUST SCRATCHED YOUR NOSE? WHY YOU JUST SCRATCH YOUR NOSE?" (well, son, why do people usually scratch??) and "DID I HAVE A SPECIAL TREAT YET TODAY?" (again, already asked and answered about a thousand times). 

Yup.  Not so scintillating conversation.  And he asks THOUSANDS of nonsense questions each day.  Questions he totally knows the answers to, or questions that are just silly, or questions that I've patiently answered about a hundred times.   Those awesome "why" questions that I get to teach him how to research the answers to?  I get maybe one of those per day, mixed in with 299 questions like "WHY YOU JUST DID THAT?".

I know, I know... it's his immature way of trying to start a conversation.  I get that.  It's how he learns about the world.  I get that too.  It's his way of testing to make sure that he can communicate openly with me.  Yuppers.  I know all the scientific facts behind the constant nonsense questions.  But I'm telling  you... it does not make it any easier to patiently answer the millions of silly questions.

I also know all the "tricks" to dealing with nonsense questions: turn it into a game, ask the question back to him ("Why do YOU think I poured myself a glass of water?"), etc.  But even that gets old after fifty or so times.

So here's where I struggle with the balance.  This behavior, although it is normal for a three year old, is, well, annoying.  It's irritating.  If an adult behaved this way, or even an older child, I would consider it socially unacceptable.  Not to mention, it's not working for me - and one of my maxims in parenting is that both parties involved (parent and child) have to be content with how things are going.  At what point am I doing him a disservice by not teaching him better, more mature ways to act?  And then, am I squashing his natural, age-appropriate inclination for conversation and attention?  I don't WANT him to be irritating for other people (myself included) to be around- ways to get negative attention are not acceptable to me. 

But I have such amazing memories as a child of sitting at the dinner table, asking a question and being directed to our set of encyclopedias to look it up, or my dad taking me on a special one-on-one trip to the local college library to teach research skills.  I desperately want to recreate those memories and that curiosity with Cole... if I discourage his questions now, will it transfer to him not asking "real" questions later?

It boils down to this:  what is the most respectful way to deal with annoying, yet age-appropriate behavior in children?  Is it my job as a parent to just suck it up and wait for the irritating stage to pass, or is it matter of setting limits with the child so the annoying behavior is stopped?

What do you think?  I'd love to hear your thoughts on the subject!  As long as you don't mention the irony of me asking a question about asking questions...

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