Balancing comments and questions

When we talk with the people we are closest to our conversations are often enjoyable, relaxed and flow effortlessly. We naturally use questions to find out more from the people we are talking to, but these are balanced so we don’t feel pressured or on the spot to respond.

When we want to encourage children to talk more or hear what they have to say, we do the same, we ask questions. This works well for some children, but for many, particularly children who are less talkative or have speech and language difficulties, questions can be really challenging and they may struggle, seem reluctant or unable to respond. Today’s post is about balancing questions and comments to support communication with our little ones.

As a starting point, it can be really helpful to reflect on your own communication style, specifically how many questions you ask your child and type of responses you get. I’ve tried it, and on reflection there have been times when I’ve bombarded my son with questions and I’ve been met with silence or limited answers. I would love to hear if you have had similar experiences. Personally I’ve found that this strategy works well for us, and by reducing the pressures from asking certain questions and replacing them with comments I often get so much more from him.

Things for parents to try

  • Have a go at monitoring the amount of questions you ask your child. If you find that you ask a few too many, give some of these ideas a try.
  • If you already know the answer, avoid asking the question. Instead turn your question into a comment. For example:
    “What are you doing?” -> “You are building a tall tower”
    “What’s that?” -> “It’s a big red bus”
    “What did you eat for lunch today?” -> “I had tomato soup for my lunch today…” and pause to give your child an opportunity to tell you what they had.
  • Avoid asking questions to ‘test’ your child. By using comments you will be exposing your child to richer language and helping him/her to learn new words.
  • Keep your questions genuine. When you ask your child a question try to remember the following:
    Try not to ask your child too many questions.
    Lots of questions can put pressure on our children to communicate, it may feel like a test and they can quickly stop the flow of the conversation. If we have a number of questions to ask we can support our children by asking one and then pausing to give them time to process and answer the question, before asking the next.
    Don’t ask questions that are too complex. Children whose language skills are developing might struggle to listen to, understand and process the question. They might also find it difficult to find the words to answer and use these to formulate a response. If it feels like a tricky question, try to simplify it.

So give it a try! Monitor the amount of questions you ask your child and if it feels like too many, turn some of them into comments. I decided to choose this strategy to discuss because it’s one that I’m continually working on with my children and something that can be quite tricky to implement if naturally you ask lots of questions. Just remember that a balance of comments and questions related to your child’s interests will keep the conversation flowing.

I am a fully qualified Speech and Language Therapist with a First-class honours degree in Speech Pathology and Therapy. I am a registered member of the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists, the Association of Speech and Language Therapists in Independent Practice and the Health and Care Professions Council.
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