All children have character traits that form their behavioural patterns. One of such traits is the tendency of children to be ‘annoyingly’ inquisitive, seeking information on things that may be considered irrelevant or beyond their knowledge base at that stage.
Many times, parents and adults looking after children tend to perceive inquisitive kids as being overly nosy rather than regarding them as individuals with a burning quest for knowledge.
While some parents would shush children for making ‘nasty enquiries,’ others would punish the kids for going overboard.
“No matter how uncomfortable you feel with their questions, don’t ask your nosey child to shut up,”
said Grace Ketefe, Executive Director (Operation) of Cece Yara Foundation, a child-centred organisation in Lagos.
Ketefe said that children learn through observation, exploration and questioning of trusted adults who in most cases are their parents.
She said persistent inquisition by children was based on the trust they have in their parents and their expectation that parents should know everything. Ketefe noted,
“All children are generally curious; they want to understand many things. Parents should know that children are curious and sometimes overly anxious and they need to be regularly reassured that everything is okay.
You may need to explain to them that some things they worry about do not carry the danger or harm being envisaged.”
The child rights activist, however, advised that parents could set boundaries to keep children’s excesses at bay. Ketefe added:
“For instance, you can tell them about attitudes like the need to knock before entering a room, especially if your door is closed. Tell them your phone is private and assure them that if there is anything they need to know, you will always tell them.”
A parent and media relations expert, Ifeoma Nkem, said handling a nosy child requires the joint effort of both parents.
She noted that such children deserve explanations irrespective of the nature of the questions they ask. Nkem said:
“There must not be a communication gap. It is the duty of the parents to let such a child have an answer to his enquiry.
The parents may have to enlighten the child on what he or she is making enquiries on.’’
Nkem further stated that when children were overly inquisitive, it could be a pointer to the influence of their environment on them and the need for parents to monitor them. She added,
“In some families, when they have guests, children are allowed to play around, thereby eavesdropping on the conservation.
I will advise parents to excuse their kids when they have visitors, especially when sensitive discussions are involved. They can also correct the children in a polite manner when they notice that they are being unnecessarily nosey.”
A counselling psychologist and Executive Director, Hosec Foundation, Ibukunoluwa Otesile, said effective parenting requires that parents equip themselves with basic knowledge on brain development and know how to draw the line between “the closely related concepts of curiosity and nosiness.”
“Every parent will benefit from knowing that there are four stages of cognitive development every child goes through as put together by Jean Piaget,”
Otesile said, identifying the developments as sensorimotor, preoperational, concrete operational and formal operational stages. She stated,
“Sensorimotor stage is from birth up to two years. During this period, the child learns about the world through their senses and the manipulation of objects. The second stage is between ages two and seven.
At this time, the child develops memory and imagination. They are also able to understand things symbolically and to understand the ideas of the past and future.
The preoperational stage is when children seek to understand the world they live in through their interpretation. This is often not enough and this is when the questioning moves to a whole new level. They become curious about everything. They just want to know and know and know.
At concrete operational stage, ages seven through 11, children become more aware of external events, as well as feelings other than their own. They become less egocentric and begin to understand that not everyone shares their thoughts, beliefs, or feelings.
At the final stage, ages 11 and older, children are able to use logic to solve problems, view the world around them, and plan for the future.”
Otesile said parents should regard inquisitiveness as “age appropriate” noting that being patient and honest with children in giving answers was an effective way to handle it.
According to her, children tend to be nosey because they are curious about the world around them – an act she described as “perfectly normal.” She said,
“However, there is an extreme that must be checked otherwise, it could worsen as they advance in age and become the bedrock of annoying antisocial habits such as eavesdropping, snooping around other people’s private things and even listening to telephone conversations.See Also
“It could be a sign of anxiety. Some children are overly anxious. They have separation anxiety and worry about everything. In dealing with children like this, all you have to do is to constantly reassure them that everything is alright or will be alright and that you will always have their back. This could be a response to a trauma or an incident in their life.”
The psychologist cautioned that extremely curious children must not be asked to shut up, warning that doing so would only fuel curiosity and add to the children’s anxiety.
“Answer the question as best as you can,” she added.
A sociologist at the University of Ibadan, Dr Omobowale Ayokunle, said that being unusually inquisitive was a sign that a child exhibited some degree of intelligence and should be welcome. The expert advised:
“Such children should not be told to shut up. Many parents see those kinds of children as being lousy; make them keep quiet and begin to forcefully resocialise them through punishment.”
Ayokunle stated that children who should ordinarily grow up to become respected public speakers were denied such talent due to the re-socialisation they had e been subjected to.
He said that asking nosey children to shut up could make them become withdrawn and affect their mental health. The sociologist added,
“Parents should recognise such value as one that should be nurtured for the progress of the child in life. There is a way information could be passed across to them that will be informative enough without being raw depending on the age of the children.
If a child is too inquisitive, it is a positive sign of having a charismatic leadership. It is something to be nurtured within the context of the environment and not killed.”
A psychology professor, Oni Fagboungbe, also affirmed that parents shouldn’t bother if their children were unduly inquisitive. He stated:
“It means such a child has a high Intelligence Quotient.
“Parents should not kill the IQ. They must endeavour to respond to such children and educate them on the behavioural implication of that act. But if they don’t explain things to them, they can kill the IQ.”