When I was a kid, I used to ask, "what time is it?" all day long. I knew what time lunch was at. I knew what time certain shows were on. I knew what time my sister came home from school. I knew what time mom came home from work. Therefore knowing the time helped me organize my daily schedule and know what to expect. My father did not understand this. He could not understand why a four year old, who couldn't read the time off a clock face, would need to know what time it was. My repetitive "what time is it?" questions made him frustrated and they interrupted his writing and thought process. He couldn't take it anymore so he bought me a digital watch. I laugh now, looking back, but really, they could have just made a visual schedule and hung it up in the house. The goal, however, was not to help me satisfy my need for consistency or reassurance, it was to shut me up. Plain and simple.
While my mom was making supper, I would often ask her repeatedly what she was making. I often forgot that I just asked two minutes before. It wasn't until she reminded me that I had already asked her at least five times that I was able to realize what was happening. Over time and through her annoyance with me, I was able to figure out that asking repetitive questions was annoying. I was asking for reassurance that she could not or would not provide me.
People often say there is, "no such thing as a stupid question." Oh yes there is, if no one has the patience to explain things to you!
As a child, I wasn't always asking the question I needed the answer to. Sometimes it's hard to put into words what we really need. Asking repetitive questions, as a child, was about looking for certainty, predictability, and reassurance that things were under control. I needed to know the same things were happening, at around the same times, every day. Without that info, I felt anxious.
So fast forward to the present, with my own son occasionally asking repetitive questions. It doesn't happen often, because I'm in the habit of narrating his days. When saying goodnight, I tell him what's happening tomorrow. In the morning when he wakes up, I tell him our plans for the day. It commonly goes like this: "hey, it's time to get up and start our day! It's a nice day. It's Tuesday. We're going to have some breakfast and then we'll get dressed. Today you're going to take the bus to school. Then the bus will bring you home and Dada will be here. Dada will make you supper and then I will come home. Then you'll have your bath and get ready for bed!"
I do that every day.
At school, I know they have visual schedules to help them out with their days. I've run into problems at daycare recently where the worker did not think to just answer his questions when he asked them, which led to anxiety on his part.
The point is, a child is not asking a question over and over to be annoying. They're looking for bits of information to make their world make sense. If I start getting repetitive questions, I know I need to offer more info. I know that somewhere along the line, I have failed to provide either the structure, information or reassurance my child needs. Yes, that's right, it is my responsibility to help my child regulate until he is able to do so independently.
I, as an adult, still sometimes ask repetitive questions. I honestly don't remember asking over and over until someone tells me. But when I do, I know it's because there is something underlying that question and I need more info so as to control my anxiety.