What Is the Importance of “Why, Why, Why?”
It’s magical to witness a child’s wonder. It’s fascinating to observe a child’s curiosity. It can be exhausting to hear a three-year-old ask as many questions as he or she can in a single vehicle ride.
Do you want to tap into more of that positive energy and let go of “because I said so” responses?
“Why?” is a crucial question to ask. Understanding the motivations behind children’s questions, as well as knowing what to say in response, is extremely beneficial. Continue reading for three key reasons why children ask questions, as well as suggestions for how to react.
“Why?” Has Three Reasons
As the goals behind a child’s questions, three basic categories occur and reappear: 1) to attract attention, 2) to conquer a fear, and 3) to establish understanding.
Questions to Get People’s Attention
Here’s the scenario: it’s a weeknight, and you’re in the kitchen preparing dinner while your child plays nearby. You’re focused on the work at hand: quickly making a nutritious lunch for your family. You’re attempting a new meal that, fingers crossed, will please everyone this time, but your unfamiliarity with the recipe is keeping you extremely occupied.
You keep stopping to answer your child’s inquiries because you want to be present for them. This is making the meal-preparation procedure, which should have taken around an hour, seem like an eternity.
Meanwhile, your own thinking begins to ponder: “Why are these questions coming now?” What gives your child the ability to come up with so many diverse variations? “When are they going to stop?”
Take a deep breath and relax. Really. You, the reader, are correct. Even if your child isn’t currently bombarding you with questions, being able to take a deep breath whenever you need to pause is a valuable habit to develop. Allow it to go out. Okay. Let’s keep going…
With some practice, you can learn to identify where these questions are likely to come from the moment you stopped to take a breath. When their desires are satisfactorily met, the child will most likely stop asking questions, and both of you will feel a little more at ease with your individual tasks.
Let’s face it: having control over a situation is very empowering for most people, including children! This, combined with the fact that young children aren’t always in charge, can lead to a child attempting to manipulate the situation in order to gain the attention of an adult.
In this case, the child notices that you are preoccupied with another task. If they are not engrossed in something equally engrossing, they will most likely want your attention to return to them. Children adore direct interaction with their caregivers! When you’re at the supermarket, preparing dinner, on the phone, driving in your car, or getting ready for bed, you’re likely to ask a question to get someone’s attention.
Respond to Getting Noticed
The desire for attention must be addressed regardless of the question at hand. So, whether your child has asked why the sky is blue or why dinosaurs died, it is critical that you communicate directly with them.
Find a place where you can stop, get down on their level, and answer their question rather than continuing to add ingredients to your jambalaya. Then, either tell them you need to focus on your task and will check in with them later, or better yet, invite them to join you!
If you feel the urge to proceed on your own, make sure you check in with your child along the route. Set a timer or come to a halt every quarter hour. Your ability to take a break from what you’re doing and make eye contact with your child will show them that they don’t need to be in charge of the situation because you’re dependable in your relationship.
It’s even better if you can involve your child in what you’re doing! Show them how to peel shrimp and dip them in batter! The time you spend teaching them how to participate in what you’re doing allows for more connection, less desire for the child to manipulate the situation, an opportunity for learning, and eventually, reliable help!
Questions on Overcoming Fear
Have you ever noticed that when your child is in a new situation, he or she seems to have an infinite number of questions? Here’s an illustration: Today is the first day of horseback riding lessons. For what seems like their entire life, your child has been begging to learn to ride a horse. Finally, the time has come. Your child has assisted you in selecting boots and a helmet, and they have been talking to their stuffed horses about this new opportunity for weeks. The anticipation is palpable.
Let’s go back to the car ride to the stables. Your child will bombard you with questions from the moment you get in the car and for the next fifteen minutes. You are doing your best to answer each question because they have your (mostly) undivided attention.
They just keep coming:
“What is the point of wearing a helmet?”
“How come my boots have such high heels?”
“Why can’t you come up with me on the horse?”
“What if the horse refuses to let me ride it?”
“Why are horses so massive?”
The questions then become repetitive.
Remember that breath we mentioned earlier? Take another one right now. Make it deep, and then take a moment to clear your mind.
You can categorize these questions with a little more thought and a big gulp of air to assist clear your head. Also, you recognize that your child is about to go on a new journey, and that this new terrain may bring with it some fear about the unknown as well as quickly recall questions that occurred before the start of a new school year, doctor appointments, and birthday parties.
Overcoming Fear: How to Respond
It’s critical to connect and encourage when you’ve identified the queries as fear-based. The solutions could make them feel better about the scenario ahead of them, but what they actually need is connection.
Take a few moments when you get at the stables to look your child in the eyes. Take them in your arms or hug them. Assure them that you are there to assist and protect them.
Their questions will likely fade after you two can approach the situation together and they’ve received physical and vocal reminders that you’re there for them and that you believe in them.
Make up some questions to help you understand.
The following is the most recent scenario: Your youngster is on a playdate and has come to tattle on another child more times than you can count throughout the two-hour session. You’ve intervened, ignored, and pleaded with your youngster to stop reporting on every interaction.
They’re back with more to share before you know it.
You’ve heard multiple times that the other child “won’t take turns,” “isn’t using their words,” and “took the toy away from me.” You’re tempted to never host another playdate. You take a deep breath in order to clear your mind. As a result, you realize that your child hasn’t been directly asking you questions. When you listen carefully, you will notice that the “why” is more implied than stated, but it is still very present.
When a child is told about another’s behavior, whether at a playdate, on the playground, or at school, he or she is usually trying to decide for themselves whether the behavior is acceptable or not, and they are looking to you for guidance on how to respond. And children’s comments aren’t limited to other children!
Respond to Creating Awareness
Listen when children tell you about another child’s behavior. Pay close attention. Then try to figure out what the underlying question is. Children are attempting to learn about the world they live in and the rules they must follow. Their desire for consistency, repetition, and structure makes sense, given that many of their experiences are new to them, and they are looking for rationale to help them navigate their lives.
We must take the time to explain to children the complexities of the world at large, just as we must take the time to rationalize why we expect the behaviors we do. Why do we insist on them keeping their hands to themselves? So that no one is harmed. Why do we expect them to use their own words? In order for us to better understand them. What is the point of asking them to share? So that others can have a turn as well. It is impractical to ask them to behave in a certain way and expect them to be okay with other people’s behaviors unless we can provide reasons for the actions.
Adults are frequently quick to dismiss a child’s comments on other people’s behaviors. It happens so frequently that it can easily feel like nagging. These observations, on the other hand, are healthy and necessary for their development. The more patient and interested we can be during these brief intervals, the more benefit the children will receive. Every time you dismiss a child’s report about another child’s behavior, you are dismissing a social learning opportunity.
Why? Why, Why, Why?
Whatever the reason (or how many times) a child asks questions, they are seeking connection, both to us and to their world. Use their questions to build a relationship, and consider asking their opinion before answering them. You don’t have to know all of the answers.
Allow yourself a brief pause the next time your child begins to ask questions. See if you can figure out what their question is about. Allow time for you and your child to connect, be heard, and learn together.