How long should you wait after asking a question to your child?

Honestly, I never gave much heed to this “wait time” but of late I have realized, or I should say, my kids, have made me realize that I need to work on my patience levels.

They simply say “Mumma, I am still thinking!”

And that’s really got me thinking too! 

When asking a child a question, we often expect them to answer us right away. Even with questions like, “How old are you?” you would think a child could answer right away. 

Well, with kids, especially small ones, it can take their brains a little longer to come up with an answer. They just need a little more time to process our questions. Unfortunately, as adults, it’s hard for us to not have answers NOW.

We often end up answering the question for them because they didn’t answer fast enough. 

So how long should you wait after asking a question?🤷🏽‍♀️

At least 5 seconds. In fact, I’d often double it😅

The science behind

If we just give them time, they’ll have time to process what’s been asked and can give you an answer. Now it may not be the correct answer, but they’ll at least be able to respond.

Brain research actually does show that it can take a preschool-aged child up to 20 seconds to follow through with a question or command. Their brains have longer processing times than an adult’s. 

It never came naturally to me, so I had to really train myself to really w.a.i.t for my children to process what I was asking of them.

In a real-world setup

In a fast-paced, hurry-up, multitasking world, it benefits young learners to slow down and have extra seconds to formulate a response.

If you think of a classroom set up too (from our times), regardless of grade level, students were typically given less than one second to respond to a teacher’s question. That meant that eager students were always called on; others not so much. Teachers filled short silences by cold calling on students, or providing answers and moving on.

On the other hand, now when I see in more new-age schools or what’s referred to as “experiential learning” schools, teachers purposely wait a minimum of ten or more seconds after a question, resulting in children giving higher quality and more substantive answers.

  • This undoubtedly increases their self-confidence, and they are able to take the class discussion to the next level.
  • What more, students reluctant to participate in open discussions tend to participate more. This is because “waiting” allowed students to better remember the information and articulate a good answer.
  • It increases their ability to grasp and process information.
  • In short, slowing down speeds up learning.

The Rule of 5

So now when I ask my children, like “Whom did you sit with in school today?”, I just wait 5 seconds. To make it simpler, I count in my head slowly to myself: 1 one thousand, 2 one thousand, 3 one thousand, 4 one thousand, 5 one thousand! 

This technique helps children process their thoughts, learn language and speech, and builds self-confidence. 

I am so guilty of being impatient all this while when it comes to waiting for a response! Patience is definitely not my strong suit.

So the next time you ask your child a question, try it and you’ll see their eyes light up as their little brains figure out an answer, having been given enough time to respond.

I try to do this before reminding my kids to say “thank you” too. They remember 90% of the time if I allow enough time before reminding. But I want to hear that phrase immediately!

Do you struggle with wait time too? And don’t forget to share with a friend who may find this useful!

Go Mommy!

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