With the Kids

Giving Kids Time to Respond

When asking a child a question, we often expect them to answer us right away. Even with questions like, “How old are you?” you would think a child could answer right away. Well, with kids, especially small ones, it can take their brains a little longer to come up with an answer. They just need a little more time to process our questions. Unfortunately, as adults, it’s hard for us to not have answers NOW.

We often end up answering the question for them because they didn’t answer fast enough. But if we just give them time, at least 5 seconds, they’ll have time to process what’s been asked and can give you an answer. Now it may not be the correct answer, but they’ll at least be able to respond.

Giving Kids Time to Respond
Give 'em time: Remember the 5 Second Rule

This technique helps children process their thoughts, learn language and speech, and builds self-confidence. I used this method effectively everyday in the classroom, when asking my Kindergartners questions.

So the next time you ask your child a question, just wait 5 seconds. You may even have to count in your head slowly to yourself: 1 one thousand, 2 one thousand, 3 one thousand, 4 one thousand, 5 one thousand! Try it and you’ll see their eyes light up as their little brains figure out an answer, having been given enough time to respond.

It’s all about being patient, something I’m still working on!


  1. Brain research actually does show that it can take a preschool aged child up to 20 seconds to follow through with a question or command. Their brains have longer processing times than an adult’s. Once I realized this it became much easier to deal with kids who “aren’t listening”. More often than not they do listen if you give them extra time!

  2. Thanks for a great post that I will share on my FB page and website, Child development Club!


  3. This works!!! I learned this a few years ago for my now almost 8 year old. I was happier, he was more confident. One of the best tips to learn and use as a parent (for me, anyways)!

  4. guilty as charged sometimes you get so frusterated though especially if you know they did something that they werent supposed to.

  5. Thank you for writing this. I am so guilty of being impatient when it comes to waiting for a response! I will definitely try to remember the power of the 5! Thanks!

  6. Good thing I’m learning this now! A problem I have, similar to the first comment, is phrasing things, “Do you want to…?” So, “Do you want to sit in your chair?”

    The answer is always a very honest “No!”

  7. What a great idea! Wish I could kindly suggest it to the many people in public who ask my children questions and expect an instant answer, and look confusedly at *me* when they don’t get it. If they’d only wait a few moments, and perhaps give an encouraging smile, they would receive an appropriate response. Also–it serves as a good reminder for sibling communication.Thank you!

  8. So true, signalling I’ll wait for you answer/ I’ll give you time show is one way of showing your children/kid/students respect. I am agreeing with RookieMom Heather Impatience is not just wasted on our kids


  9. Marie, this is so true! I noticed it this morning on my son before I read your post; he’s four.

    Without wanting to sound like too much of an Ugly American, I remember learning about this tactic when I was about to go work in Europe and it was also effective then. Rather than counting to five, we were taught to wait, wait a little longer, and then wait just a big more to give people time to process our questions. Impatience is not just wasted on our kids.

  10. Good reminder! I try to do this before reminding my kids to say “thank you” too. They remember 90% of the time if I allow enough time before reminding. But I want to hear that phrase immediately!

  11. I am so glad you posted this, as I needed the reminder. I have language delayed children, and they need that time even more than the average, and yet, I still forget this. Thanks again.

  12. I am so guilty of this! Patience is definitely not my strong suit, I’m afraid, although it is much better since I’ve had kids! My kids thank you for this wonderful tip, especially if their Mom can actually DO IT!

  13. What a great tip! I know I answer too often for my 4-year-old, and counting to 5 will help me slow down. Love the photo/visual reminder!

  14. I think that’s a good idea, but I was more enthralled with that sweet little face!!!

  15. That’s good advice. I get a bit impatient when talking to my kids and forget they are so little that of course they need more time.

  16. This advice came at a fabulous time when things are getting really hectic bringing on the end of the school year. I am going to try it. And also with helping Cali make decisions, which is hard for her at 4.

  17. Thank you for posting this; our 3-year-old is so smart I often forget she is a 3-year-old.

  18. I used to be a teacher also, and this was part of our observations – we had to give children wait time, and if we didn’t, we were docked!

    So important to remember with children, but probably with a lot of adults, too! :)

  19. What about in Primary when you ask a question and they raise their hand and you call on them, and they haven’t thought of anything? Does the five second rule still apply? : )

  20. Thanks. As always a great reminder. I might have to put it on my fridge so I remember to wait just a little longer. Eye contact also seems to help when I am asking the kids to do something.

  21. This is a great reminder. I know that I often just chatter and chatter on. Add to the fact that my kids are bilingual French and English, they often do need a bit of extra time to think about what they are going to say first, before saying it. I feel though, that I really need to work on not jumping in and completing their sentences, but giving them the time to see what they’re going to say fully instead.

  22. Thanks so much for this little reminder! I’m a very patient person, usually, but lately I’ve found myself getting frustrated when my boys don’t follow my directions right away. But if I remember to give them just five seconds, they do what I’ve asked – without my having to nag!

  23. This is so true, I find it applies to asking them to do something too – if I give them five seconds before asking again they’ll usually do it first try. And I definitely agree Deanna’s point about not adding “ok” at the end of the sentence if you’re telling a child to do something.

  24. So true! Know what I am working on right now? It’s a hard thing (well, for me). When telling the kids to do something *NOT* phrasing it as a question or adding an “ok?” at the end to make it a question. (ex: go get your shoes, it’s time to go, ok?) It is alot harder than you think.

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