Ask – When a child asks a question, ask them a more probing question rather than answering them right away.
Think – Allow the child to time to think of a response.
Wait – Be patient during the time the child is thinking. Do not interrupt their thoughts with more questions or furthering your own thoughts.
Listen – Listen to what the child has to say in their response. Digest what they have to say and respond with further questioning.
Practice – This process takes practice for both the child and adult in the situation. We are accustomed to quick question and answers and moving on. Old habits are hard to break!
The best questions have no simple answers, and some questions have no answers at all. As educators we tend to ask the questions that only satisfy ourselves and our comfort zones or those that have readily available answers. Often times we answer questions for children quickly because we think we know the answers. A better approach is to ask more questions based on the child’s cues and take a risk by going with the child’s lead. By engaging in this type of dialogue with the child, we are leading them directly into critical thinking, and affirming the child. When the caregiver relinquishes some control of the dialogue, they are affirming the child’s voice in the discussion and its direction. Never forget the power of the simple, one word question: why? When you use the power word “why”, you must wait, give the child time to think, and listen. This is a difficult process and takes time to perfect. The answer to the question is not as important as the process of the child figuring out what to say and executing; actually learning and practicing critical thinking. In the wait, think, and listen process the child is learning their thoughts are valued. Practice active listening skills with your child and engage in a meaningful dialogue. You may be surprised where it will lead.