how to listen to your kids: wait time

how to listen to your kids: wait time |

I am so grateful to be married to my amazing husband; he’s an incredible father and a patient and loving friend, and he totally rocks as an educator.

Having taught both elementary and high school, coached boys soccer for a long while, and currently being an elementary school administrator, he has a ton of experience under his belt and really knows how to work well with people of all ages.

Often, I’ve thought about how cool it is to be best friends with someone I can talk to about work, education, teaching, and parenting and be so on the same page. I’m very lucky.

Okay, enough of the mushy stuff. . .

Tonight at dinner, in his conversation with our kids about their day, he gave me the idea for this Quick Trick: Wait Time.

  • Wait Time: Many talented teachers give their students Wait Time after they ask a question. More parents (including myself) should consider doing the same.

Wait Time is just that–time to wait and think before sharing an answer.

This is how the conversation went today at dinner:

My husband: Hey guys–I heard you had a busy day today–you played at Air Mania in the morning and went to the pool in the afternoon. I want you all to take a minute and think really hard about your favorite part of the day and then tell me what it was. Don’t tell me yet (everyone, of course, started talking at once. . . ). Think for a minute and then tell me. Owen, it’s your day, so you go first. . .

And so they shared. And I marveled at how smoothly it went, everyone taking turns and talking about really interesting parts of their days.

Wait time allows a breather, gives every mind time to sort out information and formulate the best response–even to a dinnertime question about the day’s activities.

Usually, I seem to move so quickly through the days that I forget to give my kiddos time to think before they answer me. Like most of us, I tend to rush through one thing in order to move to the next, and Wait Time forces everyone to slow down. I know I need to do it more.

One reading researcher who writes about questioning and assessment believes that “thoughtful answers require thought and thought requires time.”
(Afflerbach, P. (2007). Teacher Questioning as Assessment. In Understanding and Using Reading Assessment, K–12 (pp. 51-71). Newark, DE: International Reading Association. 61.)

Sure. Right! Of course!! This makes complete sense. Now I just need to do it.




  1. Smiling Mama says

    I like the idea of this in reverse as well…often I could use at least a few seconds of wait time before I answer my son!

  2. Julie says

    Wait time is awesome, it works so well. My hubby also uses it in the corporate world. It's amazing how if you just sit in silence for a moment, the other person will continue talking or begin telling you something. I'm hoping to follow you and gain more great ideas. Thanks Amy!!

  3. teachmama says

    Thanks for another great idea, Smiling Mama!You're so right–it works both ways!

    Thanks, Julie and Christy for reading!! Also very true, Julie–wait time works everywhere!

  4. Manic Mommy says

    What a great idea! Seems like it should be so obvious! And like Smiling Mama, I need to do it more when responding to their questions!


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