Before my children could verbally communicate well, I got really good at reading their cues… Hungry? Tired? Hot/Cold? Upset? Have to pee? Yup, with a little practice, I seemed to be able to figure it all out. Now, they’re older and extremely verbal, but I keep doing something extremely stupid: I keep asking them questions which I (and they) already know the answers to. Asking these types of questions makes me sound like a broken record and is an obvious display of my lack of awareness.
1. Are you hungry?
I can generally calculate this answer, myself, if I think about the last time we ate. If they’re hungry, they’ll either lunge for food or they’ll have a melt down. Simple. Next.
2. Do you have to pee?
I ask the little one at least 29 times a day. If she has to pee, she holds her crotch and can’t sit still. I KNOW when she has to pee… SHE KNOWS WHEN SHE HAS TO PEE. I can just take her, but instead, I ask her. She says “No“. I ask her again 5 times until I take her… I’m an idiot. I could have saved my breath and just taken her at my first chance.
3. Are you ok?
Nine times out of ten, it’s pretty obvious if they’re not ok. If they’re crying or whining, they are not ok (emotionally), and that is obvious. Here, cry on my shoulder… Asking if they are “ok” only interrupts the important process of an emotional release. The only time I can warrant asking this question, is if I see lots of bleeding, or when there’s silence from the other room. Those are the only times I actually might not know if they’re ok. Otherwise, a loving presence is often all that’s needed.
4. Are you cold/hot?
My older daughter hates when I ask her this. Just because I’m cold, doesn’t mean my kids are cold. If I feel that their hands are icicles, then I should stick a long sleeve on them. If they’re sweating and it’s sunny, I can take their long sleeve off and put a hat on them.
5. What’s wrong?
If I, as an adult, were in the middle of crying and somebody asked me what was wrong, it would be pretty hard to stop myself from crying to explain the problem. The same applies to children. So instead, I need to practice listening first, as in, “Here, cry on my shoulder and when YOU want to tell me what’s wrong, I’ll be right here to listen.” (I have gotten better at not asking “What’s wrong“, but it still slips out).
6. Do you need help?
When my kids truly need help, they practically yell and scream for it. Asking them if they need help before they’re ready to accept help breaks their concentration and probably frustrates them even more. First because I’m implying that they can’t do something and second because they might be in the middle of mastering a skill (like figuring out buttons).
7. Are you finished yet?
When my kids are finished with an activity, they yell it out loud and let everyone know. Or, they go on to something else. Unless I actually *need* them to be finished, why do I even ask them?!
Asking these questions seems to undermine my kid’s autonomy. My children are emotionally intelligent little people. I have always let them express their emotions (crying, laughing) without inhibition… they’ve never been punished… so there’s really no reason why they wouldn’t tell me something if they needed it.
Kids almost always say, “No” when you ask them something. It’s a habit, the same way it’s a habit that I keep asking these questions with little awareness. If I ask them something that is already obvious, it’s actually making the situation worse, because they might just say “No“, when they really mean “Yes“.
For example, “Do you have to pee?”
*cue pees in pants*
If I had just said, “Oh, you look like you have to go to the toilet, let’s go!“, then I would have made it clear to her that I’m not playing a guessing game.
Anyway… we all have our parenting quirks that we would like to improve and for me, I want to stop asking these questions that may be indicating to my children that I am not really paying attention. If I spend two seconds to think about it, I can almost always answer these questions myself. When I do have to ask, I should do it with more awareness.