Defining repetitive questioning
Repetitive questioning behaviour is when a child asks the same question repeatedly.
Repetitive questioning as a part of normal development
As adults, we play a vital role in our child’s learning. Answering our children’s questions and providing explanations help children understand how the world works, how to make predictions and learn how to handle situations effectively, and repeating the information helps children consolidate and retain it.
Even if children have specific knowledge, it’s normal for them to still ask the same question from time to time to alleviate worry, doubt or fear.
Repetitive questioning behaviour of concern
Some children ask the same questions so many times that it becomes excessive. Questioning can be repetitively asking about an activity (e.g. Do I have to go swimming?), time (e.g. When are we having lunch?), person (e.g. Is Simona coming today?), place (e.g. Can I sit in the front seat of the car?) or transport (e.g. Are we going to miss the train?).
It is important to note that repetitive questioning behaviour exists for a variety of reasons, and is particularly prominent in children with anxiety, Obsessive-compulsive disorder, traumatic brain injury, Autism spectrum disorder, Smith-Magenis syndrome, Fragile X syndrome and Prader Willi syndrome.
Impact of repetitive questioning
Most children and adults try to stay as patient as possible but at times they may feel tired of answering the questions and in exasperation, snap and say something like, ‘I have already told you the answer a hundred times’, ‘We just talked about this two minutes ago’ or ‘Why do you keep asking me when you already know the answer.’ However, these responses only seem to increase the child’s stress and the situation worsens.
When a child begins to persistently exhibit repetitive questioning behaviour, the climate of the context (e.g. childcare, early childhood, primary and secondary school, disability support and youth services) can change dramatically. A considerable amount of time and energy can be spent on the child showing the repetitive questioning behaviour, which can have a deleterious effect on the quality of the learning experience for all the children. Research consistently shows that managing behaviour is linked to staff experiencing high levels of stress, burnout, and job dissatisfaction.
Repetitive questioning affects everyone involved and the child who is asking questions repetitively requires necessary help to learn positive ways of behaving and managing their emotions.
Positive support resources for repetitive questioning
Positive Support (PBS) focuses on evidence-based strategies and person-centred supports that address the needs of the individual and the underrepetitive questioning causes of the behaviours of concern, to enhance the quality of life for both the individual and those that support them.
PBS recognises that there is no single cause for repetitive questioning behaviour . It is a complex that is a product of the interaction between multiple factors contributing to its development and persistence.
Repetitive questioning behaviour is like the tip of the iceberg so it is essential to look beneath the surface to work out the why before we can address the problem. Behaviour Help resources are at hand.