July 9, 2013

Questions, Questions

Why are crab apples called that?

When were glasses first invented?

If you could be any color of the rainbow, what would you want to be and why?

If you had two extra ears, where would you put them?

Do caterpillars ever trip when they're walking?

If God is big enough to know and see everything, how can He be small enough to fit in our hearts?

As a parent or teacher, you surely hear questions like this every day – many times a day. In fact, as one friend recently remarked, “[Kids] ask so much all the time!” And the breadth and depth of their questions is simply amazing.

Of course, we’re busy and we’re human, so we can easily tire of children’s questions. In fact, when my girls are in a particularly chatty mood, I sometimes long for bedtime just so my ears can get a bit of a rest.  

And it’s okay to set some boundaries – to ask for silence at particular times or to request that they sometimes write down their questions or research the answers on their own instead of verbalizing queries moment by moment. But we need to guard against being so critical of the questions that we paralyze kids’ curiosity.

After all, curiosity – the ability to ponder and wonder – is one of the 12 genius qualities. And allowing a child to express his curiosity by asking questions is a key means by which we encourage that quality within him.

My 12-year old daughter and I have a nightly “check-in” routine in which I lay down with her for a few minutes shortly after she turns out the lights for the evening. What started as a way to ease her anxiety about insomnia she’s since overcome has morphed into an opportunity for mother-daughter bonding. And as part of the routine, she asks four questions about anything on her mind at the time. Sometimes she wants to know about my childhood. Other times she asks about little things like caterpillar legs, and occasionally she ponders deep philosophical questions. I always share my perspective, but sometimes we come to the conclusion that we don’t know the answers – so we might need to research them the next day or acknowledge that a few questions are rather unanswerable.

But the point is not the answers. Rather, it’s the asking that matters – the chance for her to stretch her “curiosity muscles." Of course, there are times when I’d prefer to give my ears a rest sooner each evening – and sometimes I’m so tired I ask her to narrow it down to one or two questions. But giving her at least one guaranteed opportunity each day to ask questions has been one of the best tools upon which I’ve stumbled for growing her God-given curiosity.

Photo Credit: merickson pangilinan


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