Balancing Questions with Comments

19 March, 2018

Have you ever been in a conversation with somebody who is asking you far too many questions?

“What did you have for your lunch? Was it nice? Who did you sit with? What did she say? How old are you? What’s that? Where did you get your hat from…?”

Just like we don’t like to be in conversations where we are overwhelmed with questions, the same is true for children. Questions are obviously a big part of the conversations we have, but too many questions can put pressure on your child and actually stop the conversation.

Similarly, when questions are too complex, children whose language skills are still developing may find them difficult to understand and process and also to find the words (or the necessary thinking time) to answer them. If a question feels too tricky, try to simplify it – a child who feels comfortable and under no pressure will be much more motivated to engage in interactions.

Have a think about your own communication style, how many questions you use with your child and the response that you normally get. On reflection, I have definitely been known to unleash a barrage of questions upon my son, only to be met with limited responses or silence!

Many parents fall into the trap of questioning as their default style of interaction in an attempt to teach their children or to encourage them to speak. However, this type of interaction can often feel one-sided, unnatural and for many children, it can feel like a test.

The answer here is to try and balance questions with comments.

Instead of a question —> try a comment.

What’s that? —> It’s a big dinosaur!

That’s a big ball, isn’t it? —> It’s a big ball!

Do you like that banana? —> Mmmm. Nice banana!

What colour is that car? —> Look! It’s a red car.

What are you doing? —> Wow! You’re rolling the ball.

As a general guideline, for every question you ask your child, try to make at least two comments. By using more comments, you are providing your child with a richer language environment and so helping them to learn new words.

So, why not give it a try? Monitor the amount of questions you are asking your child, try to balance them with comments and let’s see what response you get!

Here’s a quick reminder of things to try to keep the conversation going.

Ask fewer questions and use more comments. Try not to ask questions that…

  • your child doesn’t have time to answer
  • test your child’s knowledge
  • are too hard for your child to answer
  • don’t have anything to do with what your child is interested in

Good luck! 🙂

Sarah Carroll