Just Give Me an Answer!

“Mom, what’s the answer to this question?” I could see it in her face. It wasn’t that she couldn’t find the answer herself, she just didn’t want to exert energy in reaching it. “Well, how would you go about solving the problem? What would be your first step?” I replied. “Really, mom? Can you please just give me an answer?” As a matter of fact, no; no, I won’t!

I admit it. There are times I am a little tough on my kids. I’m not mean, I just like challenging them and pushing them to the limits of what they think they can do. While at times I am sure this is frustrating for them, hopefully one day they will see the brilliance of my plan.

In my humble opinion, I believe constantly giving our children the answers is not a good thing. There is a time and place, to be sure, but we need to be on the lookout for always providing solutions without allowing our children to find them on their own. Instead of handing over quick responses to their questions, there are a few better ways to go about reaching the same end.

New School Books

Make Them Find the Answer – As children learn new skills, they will often come across vocabulary and terminology previously unheard of. Instead of immediately telling them what a word means, we encourage our children to look the word up for themselves. The same goes for facts about topics of which they have little knowledge. If they want more information on Timbuktu, they go look it up! This saves them the headache of having to wait for mom and encourages them to be proactive with their education. Being an independent learner is important.

Have Them Try For the Answer – Often our children know the right answer, but are just afraid of being wrong. At others, I simply want to hear their thought process to see where they’re going off track. In these cases, I have them make an educated guess and tell me what they think the answer is. Once I see which direction their mind is heading, I can redirect, correcting mistakes and reinforcing skills already learned which would have helped them find the correct answer.

Lead Them to the Answer –  When learning new skills, I try to lead our children to the truth instead of merely stating it. We walk them through the process of finding the solution and allow them to answer the question for themselves. Through this they not only gain a better understanding of how they reached the answer, but it lifts their spirits to know they could answer the question on their own.

Give Them the Answer (and a Short Lesson) – When we’ve exhausted every other avenue, I will finally give them a straight answer. Sometimes simply looking up a word doesn’t help a child understand its meaning. Sometimes they try, but can’t find the right solution. Times like this call for a straight answer, followed up with a quick lesson on how I went about finding the solution or just better explaining what something means.

Of course, there are those times when my hands (and mind) are so busy that mommy forgets all of the above and gives a quick answer. (You should see my kids’ faces when this happens! They feel they’ve pulled one over on me and gotten off easy.) However, whenever possible, I prefer to avoid the easy route and encourage them to discover the answer for themselves.

Time to Chime In: What resources do you keep on hand to help your children find answers for themselves?

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7 thoughts on “Just Give Me an Answer!

  1. I love this post. Sometimes it might seem easier to the student to just be given the answer, but the best way to teach is definitely to help them find the answer for themselves. I have so many reference books in our classroom I could start my own library. I always tell them to start there. If they can’t find the answer, then I give them the easier option of looking it up on their tablets. But first the books. I believe that having to take the time to really LOOK for the answer helps it stick in their heads better. Plus, they end up learning all kinds of little tidbits while going through the books. Win/win!

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  2. My favorite thing to do is tell them “I don’t know.” Depending on what thy are doing I might ask them if it’s in the book and sit with them and much like you it becomes a lesson on how to locate information-research skills. Sometimes I believe they know the answer but are unsure so I say “Well, what do you think it is?” and then sometimes like you said I just tell them the answer.

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  3. I do this exact same thing with my 9 year old. She’s a smart girl but sometimes wants to get to things the fast way. I always include this saying also “We have a house full of computers and devices connected to the internet. Look it up and find a trustworthy source.”

    Like

  4. I still keep a full set of encyclopedias because I want the kids to love books, not always just google it. (scary – who knows what else they could find) I keep our bookshelves organized…somewhat… so they know where to find resources for science, geography, history, etc.. It’s so true, they so often know the answer if you help them talk it through. If they just can’t seem to get it and I know where the answer can be found, I might say read this chapter and you’ll find it.

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  5. 😀 While I was tutoring a student, I learned that his mother had taught him to be afraid of failure. As a result, he would never even try to answer a question unless he was 100% certain he was correct. Obviously, this trick doesn’t work well with a tough subject like AP Chemistry, which was why I was called in.

    It took a little time for him to learn that he could trust me not to be embarrassed or annoyed with him if he answered wrong. But once I developed that relationship, I started breaking him of the habit of just wanting the answer. If he said “I don’t know” my immediate response was almost always “I know you do.” That prompt was just enough to get him to think about it again, really consider, and then make a guess. He was almost always right! It’s amazing how much we can sabotage our own achievements, but I have to say, that was one of the most rewarding times of my tutoring career.

    Of course, this method won’t work for every student… it’s highly individual. In my case, he was struggling more with confidence than an actual problem with understanding. It’s good to keep in mind though.

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