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Why you should never answer your child's questions

When your child asks you a question (or a seemingly unending series of questions) what do you normally do?

When I was a new teacher and parent, I used to address kids' questions directly and immediately. Conversations would typically progress like this: 

Child: Mommy, how do I do this?

Me: Oh, that's easy, let me show you. (Proceed to get down on my knees and fix her shoelace for her)

But very soon I began to notice that answering a question directly seemed to dissuade my child and students at worst, or failed to teach anything at best. 

"It's not that I'm so smart, it's just that I stay with problems longer," - Einstein wrote in a letter to a friend.

In order to learn, children need the chance to puzzle with a question, to think about it, to play with it, to live through it. If you rush to answer - you rob your child of these very valuable and very educational moments.

It's likely that if a child hears the answer she seeks immediately, she will forget it as soon as she heard it, because no intellectual process was involved. Not only this, but answering right away also devalues the question by making it seem simple or obvious - undermining the child's confidence as she feels this is something that she should have known.

So next time your child asks you a question - respond with another question, point to resources, or start a discussion. Enjoy a little role reversal, and ask your child - 'Why?'

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