The Punch

Handling overly nosy children

- AFEEZ HANAFI

Childhood comes with many character traits that form the behavioura­l patterns of children. 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.

“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,” Ketefe added.

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. “There must not be a communicat­ion gap,” Nkem said. “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.

“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.

“Such children should not be told to shut up,” he advised. “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.

“it means such a child has a high intelligen­ce Quotient, the psychologi­st said. “Parents should not kill the iq,” he stated. “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.”

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