Home About Dr Gayle Counseling Services Speaking Services Online Seminars Articles Press Room Books Contact

Ask Dr. Gayle

My Grandson's Questions Drive Me Crazy!

QUESTION: I have just begun to take care of my three-year-old grandson one day a week while his mother works. I feel rather awkward with him because he is always asking questions. I am not used to having a conversation with a young child. What is the reason for this kind of constant talking and questioning? It would help me to understand more about what the normal activities are for his age.

ANSWER: Words are tools for abstract thinking. In fact, answering those "why", "what," and "how come" questions so popular with three-year-olds really matters! Words are symbolic representations of ideas and concepts. We use words to think. The more a child has practice linking explanations to events, or following the concepts presented in a story you read, the greater the opportunity he has to develop a vocabulary that can be used for independent thinking and abstract reasoning. Even talking to an unborn child in the last month of pregnancy has been linked to improved language abilities and even higher IQ later! It is no different with your three-year-old grandchild.

Making the effort to talk to your grandchild pays off in his ability to develop higher reasoning skills. When you take the time to explain why things work the way they do (whether it is why a plant needs water, or why a toy cannot be bought immediately because the store is closed) you give him practice in understanding the relationship between words and events. Talking about what the family's plans are for the next day encourages him to visualize the future.

Let's take a brief look at some of the things your three-year-old grandson is likely to be capable of, at this point, and how these abilities interact in his development. You might notice that he can whisper, walk on tiptoes, feed himself, even use the toilet. Mastery of physical processes brings confidence, independence, and a readiness to interact socially. If encouraged, your grandson can become active in the decisions, activities, and conversations around him. And his social abilities reinforce his intellectual abilities. Increased social skills can encourage further opportunities for learning and curiosity in the world and how it works.

Children of this age also recognize and use humor. So jokes could be one avenue of fun for both of you! He can probably also perform simple tasks based on verbal directions, such as picking up toys and putting them in a basket. Check this website for activities, jokes, and riddles you and your grandchild can enjoy together.

Cooperation, laughter, and an ability to follow simple directions can make this age delightful! See what you can find to do and talk about together. Rest assured that repeating answers and explanations really does have a purpose. And remember, not only are you helping him develop, but there will come a day when he may not be as interested in talking to grandma. So enjoy it while you can. It will not last!

Gayle Peterson, MSSW, LCSW, PhD is a family therapist specializing in prenatal and family development. She trains professionals in her prenatal counseling model and is the author of An Easier Childbirth, Birthing Normally and her latest book, Making Healthy Families. Her articles on family relationships appear in professional journals and she is an oft-quoted expert in popular magazines such as Woman's Day, Mothering and Parenting. . She also serves on the advisory board for Fit Pregnancy Magazine.

Dr. Gayle Peterson has written family columns for ParentsPlace.com, igrandparents.com, the Bay Area's Parents Press newspaper and the Sierra Foothill's Family Post. She has also hosted a live radio show, "Ask Dr. Gayle" on www.ivillage.com, answering questions on family relationships and parenting. Dr. Peterson has appeared on numerous radio and television interviews including Canadian broadcast as a family and communications expert in the twelve part documentary "Baby's Best Chance". She is former clinical director of the Holistic Health Program at John F. Kennedy University in Northern California and adjunct faculty at the California Institute for Integral Studies in San Francisco. A national public speaker on women's issues and family development, Gayle Peterson practices psychotherapy in Oakland, California and Nevada City, California. She also offers an online certification training program in Prenatal Counseling and Birth Hypnosis. Gayle and is a wife, mother of two adult children and a proud grandmother of three lively boys and one sparkling granddaughter.

Return to Dr. Gayle Peterson's Home Page

Copyright 1996-2003.  Gayle Peterson All rights reserved.

Send Comments and Inquiries to Dr. Gayle Peterson at gp@askdrgayle.com