Kids speaking in questions

My 9-year-old niece speaks to me mostly in questions. For example:

Niece: “Do you know what I had for lunch today?”
Me: “No.”
Niece: “I had pizza and it was great.”

N: “Do you know what I did after school yesterday?”
M: “No.”
N: “I went to my friend’s house.”

N: “Guess what I’m doing Saturday”
M: “What?”
N: “We’re going to a baseball game. And guess what”
M: “What?”
N: “Daddy said our seats are good.”

She’s not actually trying to get me to guess anything and I’m not playing along. It’s basically an affectation of her speech and it drives me bonkers. I feel like conversations take way too long with all the extra words and back-and-forth. She does go on after the initial question, answer, response - our conversations are longer than 3 lines. But as in the third example, she will often include many subsequent questions in a conversation.

Sometimes I respond with “tell me don’t ask me” but I don’t press the issue, lest I get yelled at by someone (I’m not a parent so I’m basically the scum of the earth and should never correct a child).

I have a feeling this way of speaking was majorly influenced by my dad, who has always spoken to both the kids and the dogs this way, as a form of baby-talk. But he is drunk most of the time and also hadn’t been around children for 30 years so I guess it made sense to him. A little bit fun when the kid is an infant and can’t respond (like a dog) but now that the kids are talking this way too it’s just too much.

I come to the Dope not just to vent but to ask…is this normal? Common? Will she grow out of it? Should I push back at her when we converse? OMG AM I DOING IT NOW?!

I’m not a parent but the first thing that comes to mind is “she’s making sure she has your attention and is forcing a response”. I’ve seen a lot of children attempt to get their parents’ attention to ask a question and been ignored. And sometimes if they do get a response, they can’t get a conversation going with the parents because the parents aren’t interested. So it sounds like she’s learned that if you start with the question, especially a vague one, like “guess what?” you’ll probably push an adult’s response button. Then continue hammering that button to keep the conversation engaged. And it doesn’t really matter if you in particular are good about staying engaged, if the majority of people she attempts to talk to don’t stay engaged in the conversation.

My 6 year old granddaughter does the same thing. Personally I think it’s a kid thing.

Basically this. Kids are still learning how to develop language skills, hold conversations and engage other people socially. This is partially why most conversations with kids seem so inane; they’re interested in conversing but not yet skilled in how to do it so there’s a lot of wild swings.

I have a son on the spectrum and he gets taught how to hold a conversation with his therapist. Part of it is teaching him to say something and then wait for a response (versus speaking in one giant block of text) and to try to include some sort of hook inviting a response. “I had a great day today, how was your day?” It sounds as though your niece is doing this same general thing as part of her natural learning about how to talk to people.

Mine when he wants something, instead of asking for it says ‘i wish I had …’ I typically ignore it or praise him for wishing, or say that he can wish if he wants, and/or he can ask. I won’t get it without some form of correction, and sometimes he doesn’t get it. To be continued to see if it works.

As for your case, I may try to frustrate the child, by insisting I do know and keep it secret or insist I am correct. Even if I over generalize, such as ‘Do you know what I had for lunch today’, me not really knowing says ‘yes I do’ child then (eventually) prods to know what I know, and I say ‘food’. If they go into what they actually had I would say they should have told me that instead of the guessing game.

You know what?



A lot of early interaction between adults and children involve the adults asking the questions, seems possible kids pick up on that for a stage.

Good to know that this is not something just my niece does. I will wait for her to grow out of it.

Thanks to my sister, who teaches first grade, I know the answer to this.

“Chicken butt.”

Only one of my kids has done this. He’s the teenager we took in a couple years ago to rescue him from a series of unsettling living conditions. He’s a good kid but his gestation and upbringing has left him somewhat … arrested. He’ll do stuff like come home from work and hang out with us while we’re watching TV. Eventually he’ll say something like, “So guess what.” Pause, wait for one of us to say “what?” “You know XYZ?” Pause, wait for affirmation. Then the tale proceeds. He’s a slow talker so it can take the better part of a minute to execute this formality. Now, I used to put this down to an attempt to inject a certain gravitas into the discussion of what he feels to be an extraordinarily important topic, but he does it with texting as well. He’ll shoot me a text at like 8:30 in the morning when I’m away from the phone: “Guess what.” 3 hours later I’ll pick up my phone and text back: “What’s up?” Then comes: “You know XYZ?” I’m not quite mean enough to see how long it would take him to presume the requested affirmation and to proceed with saying what’s on his mind, but I’ll bet I could make him wait a few more hours.

My kids do that and I think it’s cute.

I speak to my kids like that a lot too, so I’m sure it’s just learned behavior.

I spent some time once with a kid once who just rolled off question after question. My response: Ask a question back. Really slowed down the rate as the kid’s brain sort of had to reboot to get going again.

Oh yeah, definitely. I’ve observed to people in the past that being a three-year-old is a lot like being on a quiz show, because so many people who aren’t comfortable talking with kids fall back on asking the poor kid endless questions. What’s your favorite color, what’s your favorite dinosaur, who did you play with at school etc.

I like to repeat the same question back to them if it’s a question I couldn’t know the answer to, like some particular thing they did that day. Sometimes it takes a bit but they eventually recognize what I’m doing.

If I’m asked to guess something I’ll simply decline to guess.

Now, if I could get them to stop prefacing a question with “I have a question” I’d really feel like I was winning.

Oh yeah, definitely a kid thing. For YEARS my son would start every single conversation with me with, “Mom?”

This even happened when he already had my attention, and it drove me bonkers.

-pause for response-
You know what?
-pause for response-
-Mom’s head explodes-


My to 4 kids when they were tiny: Hey Dad, know what?
Me: No. But I know how. And *Booooooyyyy *do I know how. Right, J (their mom)?
J: Shut up. You just know when.

Making a joke out of it for the kid too relieves the annoyance and entertains the kid.

  • Pickled pig’s ears with boiled worms?
  • Eeeeugh, uncle, no! That’s disgusting!

I would probably respond to the questions every time with some inane factoid. In fact, if I used the same factoid every time, I bet it’d irritate the kid enough that the questions would stop coming.

“We went to the park yesterday, and guess what!”
“The cotton gin was invented by Eli Whitney?”
“No…well, yeah, but, there were two guys playing frisbee, and guess what!”
“The cotton gin was invented by Eli Whitney?”
“…okay, but anyway, they taught me how to play frisbee gold, and guess what!”
“The cotton gin…”
“Stop that!”
“Eli Whitney is involved somehow, I just know it…”

I love messing with kids. My current thing is using my oldest’s fictional older sibling as an excuse for why she can’t do stuff.

“Dad, can I go to this sketchy party?”
“We let your sister Calliope go to a party like that, and that’s how she ended up being eaten by ducks! OH, HOW I MISS CALLIOPE!” (sobbing)

My standard response to “I have a question” and “I have a problem” is “only one? That’s good!”

I’ve met more girls and women who played the guessing game, but when a grown-up man does it, they tend to do it more heavily (IME etc etc). A woman is likely to use “guess what” as a topic starter and not wait for a response; a man is more likely to wait. One of my managers would start his Big Announcements with “guess what!”; we managed to almost cure him of it by answering things such as “you’re three years old now?”

The Niece still tends to do it, but then, so do her maternal uncle, his wife and the maternal grandmother (Niece is a much-more-sociable and look-at-me version of her maternal grandma). But they have different styles: The Niece just shots questions left and right without waiting for answer. When she actually pauses, when it’s a real question and not a technique to sound as if she’s not monologuing, my side of the family often asks “ah, that question was for real?”