Frequently when I'm with my kids, people will talk to them but ask questions which are clearly intended for me or for another adult in the room. It's a strange situation where people ask my children emphatic questions, like "That's a lovely dress. Where did you get that from?" but they clearly expect me or their mother to answer it. I've seen this from relatives and friends but also from childcare professionals. Just to be clear, they do NOT expect the child to answer them at all; rather, they expect me to be listening to the conversation they're having with my child, and then to interject, supplying the answers on behalf of my child, who stays silent. For example if nobody answers then the person will look to me expecting the answer, not my child. Sometimes I'll then say something like, "I don't think she knows where we got it, but it came from ..."

It's strange because for my kids, from their perspective, it's as if we're training them to ignore questions they're asked, while also building in them an expectation for people to interrupt and answer questions not addressed to them. It's not really the way the world works and not a very good example to set.

I'm curious if anyone else notices this or cares about it. I know it's not the worst thing in the world but in the interests of lots of small improvements leading to greater change I'm curious about anyone else's thoughts or experiences.

  • 4
    "Where did you get [that dress] from?" Why can't the child answer, "It was a present from my grandmother." or "My mother/father bought it for me." I'm not sure I understand why you think you must answer it unless the child is pre-verbal. Maybe a better example would help. Also, this is a Q&A site, not a forum; discussion is discouraged. If you can specify an example of a specific problem you're having or had, it would be a better fit for the site. Thanks. Commented Oct 29, 2017 at 2:50
  • Some children can/will answer questions like that, but not all.
    – Acire
    Commented Oct 30, 2017 at 22:51
  • I didn't know that about discussing things here, sorry about that.
    – J Jones
    Commented Nov 1, 2017 at 12:03

3 Answers 3


When we talk to small kids, we do it because we love to hear them speak, there's no correct/wrong answer.

For example, when I ask a child where did he/she get a dress from, the answer I'd expect is "My mom/dad got it for me on my b'day". If the kid knows the name of the shop where it's purchased, it's just a bonus.

My daughter could tell exactly the shop or website from where we got her stuff by the time she was 2.5 or 3 years old. If she doesn't know the answer to a question posed by an adult, she'd just shrug her shoulders or say "No idea" and then, those folks would directly ask me so I would answer.

So yes, it is okay and normal for adults to ask such questions to kids. In my opinion, what is NOT okay is for you to interrupt the kid's conversation and answer for them. If the child says "I don't know, you can ask my mom/dad", then , you can pitch in.

  • Thank you. The last part of your answer is the most relevant for my situation.
    – J Jones
    Commented Nov 1, 2017 at 12:00

I'm not really sure what the problem is here - I would always encourage properly formed questions to be asked if my kids when they were little. It doesn't matter if they then have to ask me the answer, they are a) being involved in our conversation and b) thinking about questions and answers. This is not about training to ignore questions at all. Both of these are very healthy things to do.

I think it's a very good example to set for kids - I just think you are reading it wrongly.


I think you are missing the point of these questions. They are almost certainly trying to engage the child rather than establish facts.

For a non-critical question like where a dress came from I wouldn't consider interrupting or answering for a child capable of speaking, for exactly the reasons you name.

I would perhaps attempt to help a poor communication by asking a follow-up question I knew the kid could answer articulately to clarify if the first answer wasn't totally intelligible, but I'm disinclined to interpret unless I see effort and frustration. And if the child asked me to answer (even non-verbally) I would probably do it, but then I would likely try to return the thread of conversation to the child by say asking her to relate some occasion we shopped there, or what shopping we did this week.

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