My DS is a little more than 2.5 and recently is going through a very large jump in cognitive development. His verbal language and ability to communicate through the spoken word is really developing. He loves to be read to all the time and has recently become interested in the letters of the alphabet. I have learned a lot (and unlearned a lot as a former secondary eduction teacher) in the last few years and feel strongly about a child's ability to learn on his own when he is ready. Along with that I feel it is very unauthentic and detrimental to his learning to question him constantly in an evaluative manner. Although I feel strongly about this I do not yet feel confident enough to share the reasons behind this with the family members that are interacting more and more with my son. My mother-in-law (who is absolutely fantastic by the way) was here this past weekend and I found myself gritting my teeth when I heard her constantly asking my son to point things out and answer questions about the books that they were reading together. I wanted to say something because she is fantastic about following our wishes when it comes to the way we want to raise our son but I wanted to be able to give her more than just my feelings on the subject. I know that I originally was enlightened on this topic when I was reading a John Holt book. Does anyone know which John Holt book goes into detail about asking children questions and the impact on their learning? Or has anyone else seen any other articles or books that address this issue? And if you have a great way of explaining this in your own words that would be extremely helpful as well. Thanks for any responses.
Hi there! My own experience with this kind of stuff is that the questioner (also, in our case, a grandparent) uses that kind of quizzing interaction because they don't know very many other ways of engaging with such a young toddler. I think that unless they are spending many hours every week with your child, it's unlikely to have much of an effect on their learning or desire to learn. But it CAN have a big impact on the relationship the child has with that adult. Eventually my children start to tune that stuff out, and avoid interacting with that grandparent, as they really don't find much of interest in the question-answer format. Then it's kind of in the grandparent's court. You can make suggestions, but in the end, it is their relationship with your child, for better or worse.
If you want to, maybe redirect their play toward more physical games-- rolling a ball, bapping a balloon around, building with blocks? There is less "content" to be evaluated on in these kinds of games. Or you could just say something simple like, "oh, I meant to tell you, we're trying not to ask X too many questions about the books we read and stuff; it seemed like he was getting kind of self-conscious." Or something. As the kids get older I feel more and more clearly how I don't need to present research to justify asking others involved in my kids' lives to go along with me. I also relax a lot more, though, and see how relatively unaffected they are by other people's styles of interacting. I love John Holt, wish I knew what book you meant!
snanna, thanks for your thoughtful reply. I do constantly have to tell myself to relax, that DS will be able to adapt to other people's style of interacting, and that my full time interactions with him will have the greatest impact. It is a work in progress! :-)
I still do however want to be able to share my reasons for what I am doing. It is not because I feel like I have to justify it but because I have such wonderful people in my life that are open to learning new things if they are given the chance. And I would hate to have any of DS relationships suffer from my inability to express what we are doing.
I guess I am unclear what kinds of questions she was asking that you had difficulty with. We point to pictures and have our 2 year old name what she sees. When we are reading Green Eggs and Ham and Sam asks the grouch to try the eggs, we ask our daughter if he will like the eggs and she is overjoyed to say no, then on the next page have him like the eggs.
Our 5 year old isn't so much into being asked questions if they're phrased in a down-speak. But if they're conversational type questions we can get into some really good conversations.
I guess for us, we follow the kids' leads. If they don't want to do question and answer, we stop, but if they do, it's a great way to interact.
Created an instant family (7/89 and 5/91) in 1997. Made a baby boy 12/05 adopted a baby girl 8/08. Ask me about tandem adoptive nursing. Now living as gluten, dairy, and cane sugar free vegetarians. Homeschooling and loving it. See me at
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I definitely think following your child's lead is very important and different children like different things. The two things that bug me the most are 1) stopping on every page to question a child about what is in the pictures which totally interrupts the flow of the story and 2) constantly asking basic, silly questions about what is on the page when the child so obviously knows the answer. For example, when Grandma has read the same story with DS already about 4 times and she always has to prompt him to answer her questions about "where is the cat in this picture?" that seems very unauthentic to me and he obviously isn't into it. Totally different is reading through a cool story the first time that has great illustrations and honestly exclaiming, "Wow! Look at all the cool animals hidden in the forest. I see an owl. What do you see?" That is sharing in the new experience not testing the child. And I do see asking questions in an evaluative way as unnecessary and detrimental to the authentic learning process.
Hmm. Hopefully you can understand what I am trying to get at. LOL. This is why I want to find, reread, and hopefully better integrate in my own mind what John Holt says on the topic. I want to be able to better explain this.
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