Introduction on How to Answer Children’s Questions

After all, Allah created Children to learn through asking questions. Conversations during childhood are mostly questions. Children feel that they know nothing about their surroundings. Because ignorance generates fear, children rush to learn about things as much as they could. Three year old children ask their parents and siblings tens of questions. The answers, without doubt, affect them and shift them from a state to another, which is seen through their continuous shift from one topic to another during conversation. Children can always be heard asking: “What?” “Where is that?” “How did that happen?” “Where did that come from?” “What is it?” “Do you know?” etc. Children want to know everything that interest them. They want to understand the things that they see and hear about even though they might not listen to or comprehend answers

Children are curious. Their curiosity increases according to their environment and present opportunities. That’s why we are overwhelmed by their questions that are more intense than ours when we were children. Times have changed and our surroundings and science have progressed. Undoubtedly, the parent’s educational methodology affects the extent of children’ questions. A parent who gives the opportunity and happily accepts children’s questions delves deeper in their souls. Conversely, parents who do not accept questions, will not have intrigued children. It is true that children should not know everything; yet, it is important that children do not shy from asking questions that affect their lives. Children should not feel insignificant or untrusted. More importantly, children must feel comfortable talking to their parents.

Reasons Why Children Ask so Many Questions

The reason why children ask so many questions can be listed in the following points:

  1. Their desire to explore and discover in order to satisfy the needs of their mental growth.
  2. Their need to understand their surroundings.
  3. Their concerns or fears due to their lack of previous experience. For example: children are scared of animals even if they are harmless. Children ask questions to feel safe
  4. The development of their language. When children ask questions, they practice language and demonstrate language capabilities and social participation rather than search for answers
  5. The opportunity for communication and emotional connection with parents
  6. Developing confidence in parents and his self-esteem

Nature of Children’s Questions

In order to understand children’s questions, we must distinguish between intellectual, linguistic, and psychological questions. In the first type of questions, the motif is to learn or talk about interests. In the second type, the motif is psychological relief, not answers. After all, questions are determined by context. We cannot determine the importance of the question, understand it, or define its meaning without understanding the specific situation that inspired the child to ask. Questions have no value in themselves; their value is derived from the situation itself and the surrounding circumstances.

Children’s questions serve three structural functions; which are:

  1. Psychological stability: Many children’s questions are based upon a psychological inspiration.
  2. Deductive thinking: Children obtain knowledge through available information built through connections
  3. Knowledge about surrounding environment and essential life matters that include: moral and behavioral values within the cultural and social environment.

Types of Questions in Children

It is important to classify children’s questions because answers vary according to their types. Questions are classified as follows.

  1. Language questions: for example: “Why are things named?”, “Why don’t names change?,” and “Why don’t we invent a new language”?
  2. Existential questions: For example: “Where did we come from?,” “Where will we go?,” “How do children come?,” “What does death mean?,” and “What about the universe?”etc.
  3. Rebellious questions: these questions are centered around “Why aren’t children allowed to do what grown-ups do?” They are attempts to imitate adults rather than mere questions.
  4. Test questions: these questions test the parents’ limits and criticize perceived weaknesses. They usually come in the form of comparison with other parents and focus on the financial and physical capabilities
  5. Concern questions: these questions reflect anxiety. The most common anxiety questions are about the absence or desertion of a parent.
  6. Questions about the body: these questions are about the body gender difference.

This classification can help parents understand the background of questions posed by children. Children do not ask for the sake of asking; they ask to understand

Why Do Parents Ignore Children’s Questions?Ignoring questions or showing irritability is not only a result of lacking answers or understanding the psychological and educational function of questions, but also a result of other reasons such as:

  1. Adults feel that the questions are awkward or unimportant which results in dismissing them. Adults fall in the trap of ignoring children’s’ rights of individual simple and clear thinking as a result of a false feeling of authority that dismisses the child’s right to throw simple questions that reflect sincere desire for knowledge , discovery, and psychological stability.
  2. Adults feel that some questions are difficult because they are related to social, cultural, or moral taboos that can only be discussed at a specific age. The difficulty and awkwardness of questions are discomforting to adults. Thus, adults should be prepared to answer these questions in a suitable manner.
  3. Sometimes, the amount and progression of questions forces adults to neglect these questions. This would not have happened have adults realized the psychological importance children’s questions. Instead, adults would have supported the child and encouraged him or her to think out loud and ask more.
  4. Sometimes, parents ignore questions because they are vague or indirect
  5. Parents may avoid answering questions because they do not know the underlying motif of the question. However, adults should provide honest and sincere answers
  6. Parents ignore children’s questions because they feel that they require objective answers because of the child’s limited mental abilities. At this point, parents wonder how the child thought of the question rather than answer it

How Should Parents Deal with Children’s Questions about Faith?Parents should provide the right answers for their children’s questions. They should also find ways to discuss their concerns about faith. They must encourage them talk about their ideas about religion so that they would be content and confident and so that they can comprehend religious balance away from prejudice. Parents do not need to know all the right answers for their children’s questions; however, they must teach them the six pillars of faith so that they grow with a strong belief in Allah. It is beautiful idea to assign older siblings to write down the questions of their younger siblings; older siblings would welcome that task if they found care and support. They will also have fun because we are teaching older children appreciating questioning, which will encourage them to ask themselves. This will also teach children how to respect the question of their future children when they become parents. In addition, parents will collect questions and have answers for their future brothers and sisters as well. Answering questions makes children happy and improves relationships – Allah permitting. Instead of suspicious sources, parents become the first trusted source of information during the coming years, especially during teenage.

Parents should differentiate between two kinds of faith questions: urgent repeated questions presented to multiple members in the family that may produce other questions and casual questions that can be avoided by directing attention to other topics. It is not wise to ignore the first type of questions. We must try our best to answer the first type of questions or look for someone who can because these questions have an important educational dimension. Casual questions, however, do not need answers especially if the answers are beyond the child’s comprehension. Furthermore, When Answering Questions, parents should uphold the basics

When Answering Questions, parents should uphold the basics

There are principles parents should commit to while answering questions. These include:

  1. Respect: parents taking question should make their child feel that they share him or her concerns. Respecting these concerns establishes psychological balance, calmness, self-confidence, focus, and logical cohesion. Parents should also ensure that older siblings do not mock their younger sibling. In case this happens, parents must take a stand, praise the child’s courage and emphasize the importance in asking by reminding everyone of what Allah said: “And mankind have not been given of knowledge except a little”
  2. Trust and Honesty: parents should be precise in their answers. They should use simple language that is easy to understand and simplify scientific information. Honest answers result in stability, confidence, and psychological security
  3. Addressing the Motives of Asking a Question: motifs rise from surroundings. For example, children get worried and disturbed after the birth of a new baby in the family. A child may ask: “Where do children come from?” We should not answer this question scientifically; we rather need to address the question’s real motifs.

The best thing parents can give children is helping them enlighten their minds not through stories, tales, and true knowledge only, but also through meditation, suggestions, questioning, and thinking outside the box. Interaction, positive discussion, purposeful conversation, and opinions exchange are crucial. Parents must also ask questions that inspire thinking in children.

We can use the answers of children’s question in a more open way. If the question is normal and not deep or sensitive, parents may ask their child or encourage him or her to bring up the question in a family meeting. Then, they should encourage everyone to join the discussion because:

Education Through Conversation

Conversation between children and their parents benefits the family in many ways: it gets children closer to the rest of the family, it increases harmony and love between members of the family, and it nurtures a friendly atmosphere that goes beyond discussing topics.

From this, we can summarize that education by conversation bring the following:

  1. It gives children the freedom to independently think and reach facts. This inspires their creativity and develops their personality
  2. It is simple and without formalities. It is engaging, relaxing, and not embarrassing
  3. It brings happiness and self-confidence to children. It also teaches them to listen to others
  4. It provides an opportunity for searching and logical and independent thinking. It also allows children to think from different points of view
  5. It raises children’s level of attention and interaction. Conversely, it prevents lack of attention and weariness.

Phrases for Conversation Questions

During conversation, children can be asked using many phrases:

What happens?,” this phrase encourages children to look at their surroundings. It helps them directly describe their observations

What do you want?,” this phrase helps children state their needs

How do you do that?,” this phrase helps children think freely and inspires their imagination to search for answers

Why does this happen?” this phrase helps children search for causes for certain issues and analyze connections between them

(What to do when — happens?), this phrase helps children re-examine things from different perspectives

Ways to Answer Children’s Questions

We mentioned earlier the kinds and forms of questions. Here, we will talk about ways of answering questions that vary according to time, place, and condition. The most common ways are:

  1. Direct Verbal Answers are the most common way of answering questions: A child asks a question and parents provide a verbal, quick, and brief answer
  2. Short Story Answers are indirect answers. Stories should suit the nature of the question. Usually, children enjoy story answers and listen to them attentively
  3. Visual Answers are answers with colorful and attractive illustrations (e.g. scientific illustrations) in which images are main source of information
  4. Observation Answers are answers in which children are required to observe and reach conclusions (e.g. questions about animals, their livelihood, and reproduction).

General Instructions to Consider When Answering Children

When answering questions, there are a set of dos and don’ts that we should pay attention to

  1. Discuss answers with children. When done, ensure that the child is convinced by the answer.

    Remember: fruitful answers are short, clear and specific, suitable for children’s age, time, location, and conditions they live in, and they do not focus on right and wrong; they rather inspire children and widen their horizons and imagination

  2. Be honest. Take care not to provide wrong information at any cost. The accuracy of your answers is the cornerstone to earn your child’s trust.
  3. Simplify your answer so that it is understandable and suitable. Whatever information you provide will stick in the child’s mind 1-

    Avoid ambiguity and confusion.

    Avoid incomplete information under the pretense that the child is young and does not understand..

  4. Do not underestimate your child’s cognitive abilities; Children can understand when the right method is used.
  5. Do not blame, mock, or scold your child for asking questions. Make your child notices that you are ready to answer all his or her questions. Mockery makes the child feel small, unconfident. It also discourages exploration.
  6. Do not worry if questions about Allah reflect inability to imagine His existence. Do not escape answering these questions because the child will look for answers elsewhere.
  7. Do not hesitate to ask for help finding the right answer. To come off as a seeker of knowledge is better than coming off as an arrogant who claims to know what to expect. It is not shameful to ask your child to wait until you find the right answer
  8. Answer questions directly without distortion.
  9. When busy, calmly explain to your child that the time is not suitable for you to answer questions. Respond to the question when free.
  10. Avoid unnecessary detailed explanations. Answering questions of a six year old should be shorter than answering those of a ten year old, and so on. This includes questions that need abundant details and evidence (e.g. metaphysical or embarrassing questions). Other answers are limited and given to all age levels.
  11. Link answers, as much as possible, to elements children conceive. Avoid abstract concepts that confuse children.
  12. Both parents should align their answers. Opinions should be the same when guiding providing information for children
  13. Do not answer a question with a question. When a parent responds asking: “What do you mean?,” the child feels frustrated for failing to deliver the question. Children believe that parents should understand without further explanation. If parents want to confirm they understood the point, they should use an affirming statement like: “You mean.”.…
  14. Avoid dictation; instead, Parents must not be radical in expressing their opinions. If a child gets an answer from a different source, they should respond with the correct answer in a simple, convincing, and easy way that regains the trust in them rather than others.
  15. Do not lecture; Instead: discuss. Provide examples, tell stories, and utilize audio-visual and scientific material, dynamic games, imitation, drawing, meditation, songs, brainstorming, mind games, wall craft, etc. to deliver answers. Variety improves children’s intelligence and broadens their knowledge.
  16. Some questions should be answered gradually. The more a child demands, the more answers you provide depending on age, type of question, and extent of awareness.
  17. When children mature, ask for their opinion on what they are inquiring and observe their reaction before answering them. Then answer according to their response. Children do not and should not think the way we think because they have a different mindset.

Mistakes Committed While Answering Children Questions

Some of the most serious mistakes that are committed when answering our children include:

Not taking into consideration the different behavioral aspects.

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