Q. I can’t seem to figure out the answers to riddles (What’s black and white and read all over?) or to silly questions (Before Mt. Everest was discovered, what was the highest mountain on earth?) that my kids bring home from school. What are the answers and how can I improve?

A. First of all, the answer to your riddle example is a newspaper. When you hear that question aloud you probably thought of the color red rather than the word read. The answer to your silly question is Mt. Everest. It’s the highest mountain on earth regardless of when it was discovered.

Second, you can improve your ability by teaching the brain this skill. Webster’s defines a riddle as a misleading or puzzling question posed as a problem to be solved. Often people fail to listen carefully, or literally. They can find themselves jumping to conclusions rather than asking clarifying questions. You may even find yourself giving in to frustration instead of enjoying the humor in life.

Studies have shown that if you are an eldest child overall or eldest of your gender, or if you are an only child, you are at higher risk for dealing with issues of self-esteem, and may hang back from trying unless you are very sure you know the right answer. This may have resulted from your parents practicing on you, and from expecting you to be a quick study and make them look good. The way you improve is to practice! Give you brain opportunities to try and solve riddles. Learn from your practice sessions. The more fun you have in the process the faster you will likely learn. Remember that the answers are simply another brain’s opinion. You might, on occasion, come up with another answer that works equally well.