Asking Questions; Avoiding “I don’t know.”

Avoiding “I don’t know.”

Most parents have experienced this at some point. You ask your child what seems like a simple enough question, perhaps about a book that you are reading, and your child answers, “I don’t know.” It might be something as simple as asking why the mouse is trying to hide the strawberry when reading “The Red Ripe Strawberry.” This can be frustrating; you know that your child is smart enough to answer this question!

The next time you encounter this, try looking at how you’ve worked up to this question. You will see the best results and clearest answers if you work up to more complicated questions from simpler ones that have more concrete answers. In the case of “The Red Ripe Strawberry,” you might want to first ask something with a more obvious answer, such as “What is the mouse doing in this picture?” Then, “Where is he trying to hide the strawberry?” Now when you ask, “Why is the mouse is trying to hide the strawberry?” Then you can expand into more open-ended questions that require more thinking by asking, “Do you think that the bear will find it?” “Why/why not?” Finally, “Why haven’t we seen the bear in this book?”

Keep Questions Flowing

Keeping the flow of questions and answers during interactions with your children, whether reading together or addressing your child’s curiosity about everyday life, and gauging how to best ask questions will promote clearer thinking and foster more meaningful interactions as you share time together!

For a more detailed explanation of “cognitive questioning,” visit:

Ask More Specific Qestions

When asking your child how his/her day at school was, or what he/she did at school, you’ve probably all too often received the answer, “I don’t know.” When you get this answer, try looking closer at the questions that you’re asking; they just might be too openended to get a real response. Try making the questions more specific, and more connected to your child’s likes/excitement. Instead of “What did you do at school today?” try asking, “what was your favorite song that you sang today?” or “what did you make at school today?” You might be surprised at the responses that you get!


Getting Social; Preparing for social situations

Teaching Social Skills

Teaching social skills is not unlike teaching letters and numbers. We start with instruction, then we offer opportunities to practice and we gradually withdraw support, as less support is needed. Regrettably, we teachers and parents often overlook the instructional aspect when it comes to social skills. We wait until our children or students have done something wrong, and then we correct them.

This can be effective, but it is not the most efficient way to teach. Ideally, we want to anticipate social conflicts and moral dilemmas, so that we can guide children’s decision-making processes. We want to have discussions about what to do in those different situations, and we want to have those discussions in a positive, affirming, calm setting–not in the middle of an emotionally charged conflict. When we talk about choices, we always want to help children come up with positive behaviors–the what-to-do, not just the what-not-to-do. The more positive behaviors choices we can make readily available, the more likely a child will be to choose one. Usually, that means giving your children many different words and phrases to use. I often say, “Use nice words and nice voices,” and “What are some other words we can try?”

Proactive Support

Giving children proactive support for handling a variety of social situations is a great way to prepare children to be successful learners, friends and well-rounded people! For a more detailed explanation of how we can successfully teach social skills, visit:

Here are a few specific lessons that you can teach young children:

  • * How to ask for an object
  • * How to ask someone to stop doing something
  • * How to make an introduction
  • * How to say “oh well” and finding something else that we want also. (There is always something else that will make us happy.)
  • * How to make our friends feel happy/how to look and see if they have happy faces or sad faces. Although it is difficult for most two and three-year-olds to recognize peers’ feelings, it’s always good to plant that seed!


Raising Digital Natives

“Screen Time” vs. “Unplugged Time”

The new generation currently coming of age is often referred to as the first generation of “digital natives,” or those born after the rise of digital technology. This creates a set of complex issues; we non-digital natives strive to make the best decisions for our children as we work to strike a healthy balance between “screen time,” (time spent with various forms media), and “unplugged time.”

Screen Time

We often approach this as an isolated and non- interactive time, such as watching TV, playing video games, or surfing the web. Aside from spending screen-time alone, be sure to integrate a healthy amount of together time on the screen as well. You can edit movies, build music libraries, research an interesting topic, and use family blogs or youtube channels as part of your joint screen-time. While engaged in media together, talk and interact. You can take this time to make connections between a movie or video game and real life. Use this time to think and not just be a passive observer. For one fantastic example of quality “screen time,” check out “Super Awesome Sylvia”
as an example of how you can engage together in DIY shows and/or projects. This can also be a tool to reach out to the broader community. Also, do not underestimate the value of educational video games. In the case of video games, the cost of failure is low (as opposed to real-life experiences) which can help encourage children to take chances, and take charge of their experiences.

Unplugged Time

When establishing “unplugged time,” be sure to designate a time when quality interactions between family members will take place. For example, although practicing for a flute lesson is technically unplugged time, it is far less conducive to real quality conversation/interactions than time spent at the dinner table. Factor a balance of both together and alone unplugged time into the equation. Alone unplugged time in particular is becoming less common in the digital native generation. Many modern-day children may grow up never knowing what it’s like to be bored and have to find things to think about on their own!

Respecting Your Child’s Digital Footprint

While setting boundaries and expectations, it is important to establish an environment of respect and consensus from day one. Your child’s digital footprint is no exception to this rule. Be open and communicative with your children regarding what you are sharing online, just as you would expect them to do for you. Also, do not share photos or private information without talking to your child about what you are doing. Always be extremely mindful of what you are putting out into the cyber world and how it may effect your child or loved ones in the future.

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