Q: My daughter is a few months shy of 5 years old. She is constantly asking me questions. Sometimes they are curiosity questions like "Is this a sometimes food or a healthy food?" Sometimes they are questions she already knows the answer to. Sometimes they are "why" or "how come" questions. Every response I give her is followed up with another question. I used to think she was just curious but now I think it may be behavioral? What do you think and how should I handle these questions?
A: They say "Curiosity killed the cat"; the saying really should be "Curiosity can drive mom and dad bananas."
A desire to learn and understand is a wonderful thing for a child, and it should be nurtured and praised. The world is a complicated place, and there is so much to learn in such a short time when you are a child; asking questions is an effective way of gaining knowledge and insight. So parents should revel in a child's curiosity and encourage it, viewing it as a positive part of his growth, even when it does at times become a bit aggravating. However, if a parent feels that a child is asking more than he needs to be, there are some steps she can take to address this.
Help the child to sometimes answer his own question Instead of answering certain questions, a parent can sometimes help the child to figure things out on his own. Learning to analyze information and come up with an answer, as well as to formulate and test a hypothesis, are important parts of a child's intellectual development. A parent can say, "Gee, that's a good question. What do you think the answer is?", and guide him in the steps to figuring it out. If it is a question that has already been answered before, a parent can encourage a child to try to remember what the answer was.
If a child is asking questions for reasons other than curiosity or information seeking, figure out what that reason is. For example, if the child does it to stall so he can avoid doing something such as a chore, make sure that it does not "work", such as by saying "That is a good question: I can answer it while you clean your room." If a child does it for attention, make sure that the child is getting enough one on one time with you (with your undivided attention) in general, and teach him other ways to get attention, such as by asking you to spend time with him.
Seek professional help if warranted If the problems becomes very big and interferes in his life, or seems to be related to emotional difficulties or problems with self esteem, a parent may want to consider seeking the help of a qualified child psychologist.