goodManners: Mind your manners What kinds of questions are appropriate for kids to ask?

Children are naturally inquisitive and curious about almost everything. Young children seem to have endless questions.

As parents, our job is to help children understand their world and a myriad of other topics. We praise young children for asking questions. We want to foster a healthy drive for information that can sometimes only be obtained from questioning. And most of us support the old adage – there’s no such thing as a stupid question.

Young children sometimes ask questions that can be hurtful – such as, “Mom- why doesn’t that man have hair on his head?” This is definitely an opportunity to have a teaching moment with your child, but remember your child probably did not intend to be hurtful in her remark. It most likely was an honest question for which she simply didn’t have an answer.

By the time a child is well into grade school, approximately 7 or 8 years old, she should have enough socializing experience to understand very basic questions that might be hurtful. It’s around this age they might need some more advanced – etiquette questioning training.

What I’m talking about is inappropriate questions. Here are some examples:

  • Does your mother dye her hair, or is it naturally that color?
  • I heard your dad was fired from his job. Was it because he did a bad job at work?
  • How much money does your mother make at work?
  • How much does your sister weigh?
  • How old is your father?
  • Why do think Jenny’s parents are always arguing with each other?

Usually in elementary school, children become more familiar with money, are more conscious of appearances, and notice slight differences with each other. Naturally they will have questions.

Teaching a child what is, and is not, an inappropriate question is difficult because frequently the difference is very subtle. Basically, children should not ask questions that might embarrass or make someone feel uncomfortable.

It would be so easy if we could just say that the topics of money, politics, physical appearances and all personal matters should be avoided. However, that’s not realistic. Maybe the guideline to follow should be “proceed with caution” when it comes to those topics.

My suggestion would be to sit down with your child and explain that there are certain topics that are very personal and discussing them in an inappropriate manner could be hurtful. Emphasize the importance of thinking before speaking about how the other person might feel when being asked the question.

Try to use specific examples, and play a sort of “rude” or “not rude” game. For instance, which question or statement is polite?

  • “What a cool outfit; how much did it cost? or What a nice outfit; is it new?”
  • “Your mom’s hair looks nice. Did she dye it recently? or “Your mom’s hair looks nice.”

Learning to ask polite questions and make thoughtful statements takes practice. Be patient and praise your child for being kind and empathetic.