We love watching our kids grow and learn to communicate. When they’re toddlers, every new word is cause for celebration. But when it comes to answering questions, are we expecting too much too soon? Katie wonders…

Imagine being in a toddler’s position.
You’re learning about communication. Talking, asking, sharing, singing.
And then your parent asks, “Are you ready to go?”
Honestly, you answer, “No”.
Or maybe they ask, “Do you want to give that to me?”
“No” because you truly want to keep it.

I think that as parents, sometimes our desire to teach our children nice manners by example, can be easily misunderstood. And they might be sincerely confused when they’re reprimanded for simply answering the question that was asked. Could it actually be a disservice to our children to lead them into the illusion that they are in control of things that they’re not?

It might be that I get too hung up on words. Semantics get me in trouble sometimes. But I actually want my son to learn that when he’s asked a question, he gets to truly respond with his most honest answer!

So I’m trying to remember to say what I mean, and mean what I say.
If it’s time to go, and my son isn’t old enough to make that decision, I’m not going to ask him if it’s time to go.
If I need to put away something that he’s holding, then I’m not going to ask him if he’ll give it to me.

But that doesn’t mean that I would put my nice manners aside and become an overpowering tyrant. It just means that I’ll politely tell him what’s expected of him.
“We’ll be leaving in 5 minutes.” ……. “It’s time to go now, sweetheart.”
“You can play with that for 2 more minutes.” ……. “Please give me the toy. Thank you.”

We still ask our 16 month-old son questions, and it’s definitely entertaining to see his nod, shake of the head, or shrug of the shoulders! But I’m selective about when I’m asking and when I’m telling.

I believe that when we clearly and lovingly communicate with our children, we can avoid some of those tantrums and they can feel confident and peaceful in knowing what to expect from us. Children, even very little children, understand a lot more than we often give them credit for. I’ve been shocked to see my son respond appropriately to what I say. For example, “Let’s go to your room to change your diaper”, and on a good day, he power walks that way! He knows that if he doesn’t, I’ll hold his hand and walk him that way, anyway. (However once we get to the changing table, we haven’t quite gotten down, “Be still, please.” What a wiggle-worm!) So I’ve just begun telling him what we’re doing throughout the day, and I really think he understands!

There’s nothing at all wrong with asking our growing children good questions.
But I think it’s especially helpful to our kids when we distinguish between questions, statements, and polite commands.

– Katie, Counting Joys