My Learning Curve: Twenty Questions

It’s Wednesday and I’m reaching back into my archives for a My Learning Curve post that I  hope will be helpful to you. An earlier form of this was published in April 2012.

Kalkidan asks questions – lots and lots of questions.  I can see dozens of you right now nodding your heads and saying, “Yep, I know just what that is like.”  From the time she gets in the car after school, until we sit down for dinner 2 1/2 hours later, the questions are constant and range from the necessary to the ridiculous.  I find myself answering, answering, and answering again; eventually I find myself saying, “Kalkidan, you know that is nonsense and I’m not going to answer it.”  Hmmm…that’s not a particularly smart strategy.

It’s as if Kalkidan believes she is not being seen, or I will not meet her needs, if she isn’t talking constantly.  Which reminds me of something Karyn Purvis says, and this is a paraphrase because I don’t want to dig through my notes this morning, “Abuse tells a child, ‘I don’t like you.’ Neglect tells a child, ‘You don’t exist.'”  Perhaps the constant questions help Kalkidan feel as if she exists.

Last week I tried something new.  After school I handed Kalkidan six index cards, each with a question mark drawn on it.  I explained that each time she asked me a question, from that moment until we sat down to dinner, she would give me a card.  When the cards ran out, there would be no more questions.

I tried to be light-hearted and playful, but to be honest, Kalkidan was miserable.  She cried, whined, moaned, and did not speak for a long time.  Without the constant questions, she didn’t know how to communicate.  The kitchen was strangely silent and peaceful – once the crying stopped.

I honestly had no idea how much noise the questions were creating and how much energy they were taking from me.

A friend, who is a therapist, reminded me to reassure Kalkidan that I see her, hear her, and will meet her needs.  Sometimes I forget the most basic things and need somebody to point out the obvious.  This is not just about extinguishing an annoying behavior, but about healing Kalkidan’s heart and mind.

Let me know if you give this a try. Have a great Wednesday, friends. It’s Beza’s 16th birthday, and I’m taking her out for coffee before school. It should be a sweet way to start the day.


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Let me introduce myself. Russ and I are the parents of twelve children by birth and adoption, and sometimes more through foster care. I'm the creator of One Thankful Mom which has been as much of a gift to me as to my readers. In 2011 I became a TBRI® Pracitioner* and have lived and breathed connected parenting ever since. I'm deeply honored to be the co-author, together with the late Dr. Karyn Purvis, of The Connected Parent; it is her final written work. I love speaking at events for adoptive and foster parents. I'm also the co-founder of The Adoption Connection, a podcast and resource site for adoptive moms. I mentor and encourage adoptive moms so you can find courage and hope in your journeys of loving your children well.


  1. sophie
    September 9, 2015

    My children are not from hard places, but like most children, they ask loads of questions.
    I like to reply "what do you think?" when I feel my energy draining.
    It still keeps the conversation going but it's mostly their energy that is being spent.

  2. Kathrin
    September 9, 2015

    Dear Lisa! Thank you so much for reminding me. My little one needs to be loud for most of the das to feel that we see her. When I ask her to be quiet it's like asking her to vanish.

  3. mkrksk
    September 9, 2015

    my daughter makes what I call "question statements". She says something obvious or that she knows to be true, but her voice frames it like a question. It is constant also and many times I just don't respond. Probably a better response would be to ask her questions. The problem with that is that I expect to hear truth when I get an answer and she will just say the first thing that comes to mind whether it is true or not. That happens to trigger me more than the constant questions so not such a great strategy for me either. I also say "What do you think?" very often and then agree when she tells me the answer.
    Were the question cards helpful in Kalkidan learning another way to relate and communicate?

  4. Emily Summers
    September 10, 2015

    Thank you for sharing this. It strikes a chord with our family I had never thought of before.

  5. Jill
    September 10, 2015

    Oh my goodness! My daughter (age 12) from a hard place talks incessantly. Questions, obvious statements, more questions, more obvious statements, etc., etc. She cannot stand to be still or be quiet. At first I thought it was because of new language acquisition. (She's only been speaking English for 21 months, so she is like a 3 year old who likes to talk about everything she sees.) However, I suspect that there is more going on. It is completely draining my introverted self. (We homeschool, so she is glued to my side whenever she is not sleeping.) Trying to find the balance between meeting her needs, training her in necessary skills, AND taking care of myself. Thanks for sharing. I don't have a specific solution to our situation, but it is encouraging to know I'm not alone.

  6. sciencedino
    September 11, 2015

    We did something similar with our son. He can be a nuisance/nonsense questioner, so he got 20 marbles in the morning for questions. If he asks a question, we say, "Do you want to use a question for that?" Sometimes he'd realize he didn't. Other times he'd say yes, then he'd move a marble. When he was out of marbles, no more questions. He's gotten much better, so we don't really use the marble system any more. Some days can get bad though, and then we take "question time-outs" and designate a half-hour as a no-question time. He can talk, he can cuddle, but grownups won't be taking questions. This has also helped him find other ways of making conversation and feeling seen besides incessant questioning.


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