Why "I Don't Know" Isn't an Answer

Why "I don't know" Isn't an Answer

You feel as though you are constantly asking your teenagers question, and they are constantly saying “I don’t know.” Your frustration with this empty response is growing, and you’re in need of some tips to elicit a different answer.

Explain The Frustration
Sometimes, youngsters, and people in general, do not realize when they are aggravating another individual. Have you ever tried sitting your child down and explaining why this response is so annoying? If not, the time may have come to give this tactic a try. Explain that you are not necessarily looking for an essay-length response, but you do want more of an answer.

Don’t Ask Yes or No Questions
Starting off a question with the word “did” almost promises an unacceptable answer. Try to ask questions that require more of an answer to be complete. Although you could run into pitfalls with these questions too, try using more hows, whys, whens and wheres in your questions.

Create Some Penalties
Grounding your children for saying “I don’t know” too frequently is a bit too much, but you can create penalties for defiant behavior in general. If your teenager refuses to work with you, canceling a weekend trip to the movies or the zoo may be appropriate. For younger children, offering praise when they effectively answer a question is appropriate.

Look for Answers Together
Your teenager might have fallen into this pattern because there are times when he or she really does not know the answer. If that’s the case, try to look for an answer together. For example, if you ask your teen what time the movie is that he or she is going to and the answer is “I don’t know,” bring up the schedule together. This can help your teenager to realize that just answering the question will often take less time.

Asking Meaningful Questions
Sometimes, both of you need to change to really alter the situation. Instead of grilling your teenager with dozens of questions about what he or she learned in school today, focus on one specific element. You might ask about a project your teen was really excited about or a sporting event that he or she went to with friends. Keeping your teenager engaged is a major part of this undertaking.

Fortunately, you can start to implement some of these techniques to have more engaging and productive conversations with your teenagers.

Found in: Family