Pre-School and Daycare

The "I don't know" response

I am looking for some help with my SS.  He is almost 5 and and answers "I don't know," to virtually any question someone asks him about his day.  Some of the questions are as simple as, what did you have for lunch, what did you and your mom do yesterday, what did you do at school today, etc.  Even when we prompt him (did you eat this?  Did you write your name? Did you sing the alphabet?), the answer is always, "I don't know,"

We will ask him during dinner time or in the car on the way home from school, so it is not like he's distracted by toys or playing outside.   When H or I ask him to try to remember he still can't or he makes an a silly story that we know isn't true.  His long-term memory is amazing and can tell me things that happened years ago, remembers pages worth of words from books, and has an incredible vocabulary.    

It is extremely frustrating for H and I, but doesn't seem to bother SS.  We know he does the same thing with his mom, grandparents, teachers, etc. when they ask him a simple question. 

Just curious if anyone has been in a similar situation?  Is this common in kids this age? 

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Re: The "I don't know" response

  • My Son has been doing this for a few months now he turned 3 in June. I always correct him. But if someone asks him how he is he always says "I don't know". Not sure where he got that.
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  • I get that response everyday from my 3 year old.  As soon as I pick him up I ask him how his day was.  He always says "good".  Then I ask what he did and he says "I don't know" or "I don't remember." 

    When I ask specific questions like "did you paint?"  He will tell me yes or no.  Or if I ask who he played with, he will tell me.

    I think they do so much in a day, they really don't know how to respond or maybe they really don't remember.

    I hear parents ask their kids the same thing at pick up "what did you do today?" and almost always the kids say "I don't know."

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  • We went thru this with my now 16 yr old SS when he was about this age.

    Here's my take:  He doesn't WANT to be grilled about school.  He gets it from 4 parents at 2 houses (at least in our case) and he hated that as soon as he got around an adult they expected things of him (info about his day).

    We handled it 3 ways:

    1.  When he said he "I don't know" or "I don't remember" we would tell him "I'll give you some time to think about it and then you can tell me something about your day after dinner."  We let him off the hook in the short term but let him know he would be expected to talk to us about something from his day later on.  That way he had time to decompress after school but knew we expected him to participate in family life by sharing about his day.  Likewise we also made a point to share about our days so it didn't always seem like a grilling.

    2.  Back off of asking him about his day.  He's sick of it and bordering on beginning the pre-teen eye roll.  Instead talk to him about something you KNOW he's gonna gab about.  For mine it was PokeMon.  When he wouldn't tell me about his day he would gladly explain to me who Char-zar was, what his power was and who he could beat in battle.

    Pick one of his favorite characters and toys and play dumb:  "Tell me about this guy" and then watch their imaginations run wild.  At this age what they ate for lunch or who they sat by during small group seems like pointless trivia to them.  Get to the heart of what they're passionate about and ask them to share that with you and you're likely to get a lot more dialogue out of him. 

    3.  When we really needed to get more info about how school was going and he deflected constantly with "I don't remember" we pulled out the big guns:  "We're concerned about your memory.  You should be able to remember what you ate for lunch today.  We're gonna try this for a few more days so know in advance that I'm going to ask you about lunch again tomorrow and try hard to remember.  If you can't remember we're going to schedule a doctor's appointment for you.  We need to make sure there's nothing wrong with you that a doctor might be able to help with."

    We only pulled this one out after it had been going on a long time and frankly I wish we hadn't.  It worked but at what cost?  

    Some kids are more introverted than others.  In retrospect I can now see that with ours he needed time to unwind after school before really having a desire to talk to us.  He'd been force to talk and interact with others all day long and just wanted some peace and alone time.  I think a lot of times forcing a child to interact with you when they don't really honestly want to is a recipe for a more distant relationship than you might have otherwise if you try backing off and figuring out what makes him WANT to communicate with you voluntarily.

    Our situation was compounded by the fact that we had a 20+ minute drive from school.  I felt like sitting in silence with him was rude but it turns out that he really preferred to table the gab fest.  In that situation we eventually settled into talking about and playing music together in the car so I wasn't always doing the "tell me about your day" thing for 20 minutes on the way home.  A bit of chat and then 3 - 4 minutes to jam out to a song worked well for us.  It was on those lovely rides that I taught him about the 80's "hair bands" and taught him how to appropriately thrash his head back and forth to the music.  Fun times!!

    Tell him some stories about you during your drive - especially if you remember any from that age.  At that age my SS loved to hear about how my Grandma would spoil us by making us chocolate chip pancakes when she watched us and how unfair I thought it was that my parents never made them for us at home.  After that story I promised to make him chocolate chip pancakes for his birthday and he thought my Grandma must have been pretty cool after that. 

    Another tip from a fellow step-mom?  Don't ask him about his time at his Mom's house.  It's a slippery slope and can put kids in an uncomfortable situation.  The only time we ever went there was when we knew he'd be attending a birthday party or something fun and then we'd ask about the event - not about his time with her.  

    I know how frustrating it can be but try not to take it personally.

    GL! 

    Our IF journey: 1 m/c, 1 IVF with only 3 eggs retrieved yielding Dylan and a lost twin, 1 shocker unmedicated BFP resulting in Jace, 3 more unmedicated pregnancies ending in more losses.
    Total score: 6 pregnancies, 5 losses, 2 amazing blessings that I'm thankful for every single day.
  • imagehowleyshell:

    We went thru this with my now 16 yr old SS when he was about this age.

    Here's my take:  He doesn't WANT to be grilled about school.  He gets it from 4 parents at 2 houses (at least in our case) and he hated that as soon as he got around an adult they expected things of him (info about his day).

    We handled it 3 ways:

    1.  When he said he "I don't know" or "I don't remember" we would tell him "I'll give you some time to think about it and then you can tell me something about your day after dinner."  We let him off the hook in the short term but let him know he would be expected to talk to us about something from his day later on.  That way he had time to decompress after school but knew we expected him to participate in family life by sharing about his day.  Likewise we also made a point to share about our days so it didn't always seem like a grilling.

    2.  Back off of asking him about his day.  He's sick of it and bordering on beginning the pre-teen eye roll.  Instead talk to him about something you KNOW he's gonna gab about.  For mine it was PokeMon.  When he wouldn't tell me about his day he would gladly explain to me who Char-zar was, what his power was and who he could beat in battle.

    Pick one of his favorite characters and toys and play dumb:  "Tell me about this guy" and then watch their imaginations run wild.  At this age what they ate for lunch or who they sat by during small group seems like pointless trivia to them.  Get to the heart of what they're passionate about and ask them to share that with you and you're likely to get a lot more dialogue out of him. 

    3.  When we really needed to get more info about how school was going and he deflected constantly with "I don't remember" we pulled out the big guns:  "We're concerned about your memory.  You should be able to remember what you ate for lunch today.  We're gonna try this for a few more days so know in advance that I'm going to ask you about lunch again tomorrow and try hard to remember.  If you can't remember we're going to schedule a doctor's appointment for you.  We need to make sure there's nothing wrong with you that a doctor might be able to help with."

    We only pulled this one out after it had been going on a long time and frankly I wish we hadn't.  It worked but at what cost?  

    Some kids are more introverted than others.  In retrospect I can now see that with ours he needed time to unwind after school before really having a desire to talk to us.  He'd been force to talk and interact with others all day long and just wanted some peace and alone time.  I think a lot of times forcing a child to interact with you when they don't really honestly want to is a recipe for a more distant relationship than you might have otherwise if you try backing off and figuring out what makes him WANT to communicate with you voluntarily.

    Our situation was compounded by the fact that we had a 20+ minute drive from school.  I felt like sitting in silence with him was rude but it turns out that he really preferred to table the gab fest.  In that situation we eventually settled into talking about and playing music together in the car so I wasn't always doing the "tell me about your day" thing for 20 minutes on the way home.  A bit of chat and then 3 - 4 minutes to jam out to a song worked well for us.  It was on those lovely rides that I taught him about the 80's "hair bands" and taught him how to appropriately thrash his head back and forth to the music.  Fun times!!

    Tell him some stories about you during your drive - especially if you remember any from that age.  At that age my SS loved to hear about how my Grandma would spoil us by making us chocolate chip pancakes when she watched us and how unfair I thought it was that my parents never made them for us at home.  After that story I promised to make him chocolate chip pancakes for his birthday and he thought my Grandma must have been pretty cool after that. 

    Another tip from a fellow step-mom?  Don't ask him about his time at his Mom's house.  It's a slippery slope and can put kids in an uncomfortable situation.  The only time we ever went there was when we knew he'd be attending a birthday party or something fun and then we'd ask about the event - not about his time with her.  

    I know how frustrating it can be but try not to take it personally.

    GL! 

    Very helpful.  Thank you so much!!!!  As far as asking him about his activities with his mom, I should have mentioned in my op, that we only referenced those activities when we knew it was something fun and that he *should* remember and want to talk about.   

     

    As far as everything else, we'll take your advice and see how it goes from here.  Again THANK YOU!!!!

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  • DD is in a multi-age classroom (3's-5/6's) and one of the first things her teacher told us at orientation was that some kids just don't answer that question at this age.  I don't have advice, but understand it's very normal.  With DD I try to have some idea of what she should have done (i.e. I know she does sign language on Wed) so I can specifically ask about that.  It doesn't always work. 
    What PP said about letting kiddo decompress before answering questions makes sense.  Sometimes we forget that our kids are human and experience the same general moods and emotions as us.  There are lots of times I'm thinking, or tired, or cranky and don't want to talk!
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  • Ds is almost 4 and does the "I don't know" thing a lot. I think it's pretty typical at this age. I try to look at his lesson plan or his communication from his teachers and ask him more specific questions like, "Did you carve pumpkins at school today " or "Did you get to play on the soccer field today" because I get a better response than if I ask "What did you do today?".  I also think HowleyShell's advice was good. I need to do a better job of telling him about my day so that he gets accustom to learning to share and the types of things I share. 

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  • Ditto PPs, I think its pretty typical.

    I just try to look at DDs' lesson plan and prompt her - how was X book?  Did you do twirls in ballet today?  If all else fails, I ask about specific friends - did you play on the swings with Jenny today? etc.

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