Children are naturally curious. As they grow and experience the world they live in, their curiosity also increases. As a result, their minds fill up with numerous questions and who else to ask than adults around them, especially their parents.
Why kids ask “why” again and again
It is perhaps safe to assume that every parent has experienced having to face a stream of questions from their preschool-aged children. The reasons kids ask their parents “why” over and over again may vary. Here are a few.
Your child is genuinely looking for an answer
A study from the University of Michigan concluded that when children ask “why” about certain things they see around them, they are attempting to learn more about those specific occurrences.
In this study, researchers analyzed transcripts from the everyday conversations of six children between ages 2 and 5 years who spoke with their parents, siblings, and visitors at their homes. They found that children were twice as likely to ask their question again if they received an answer that didn’t explain what they were asking about. These children were also four times more likely to give follow-up inquiries as if they had been given a non-explanatory response.
“Kids are playing more of an active role in learning about the world around them than we may have expected,” Brandy Frazier of the University of Michigan, who served as lead author of the study, tellsLiveScience.
According to physician, author, and TEDx speaker Dr. Alan Greene, one reason children ask “why” questions, again and again, is they want to talk to their mom or dad. The parent doesn’t necessarily have to provide a very detailed answer; Dr. Greene says the simple act of responding animatedly to your curious child can do!
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“After conversing with thousands of children, I’ve decided that what they really mean is, ‘That’s interesting to me. Let’s talk about that together. Tell me more, please?’” Dr. Greene writes. “When I’ve connected with children and begun to spin a tale to answer this question, they’ve sat enthralled. There was no need to mention because, or therefore, or cause, or effect. They don’t need to know why — all they need is animated attention and me saying whatever came to mind about that subject. After a brief interchange, we were both happy.”
Your child wants your attention
Sometimes, your child might be giving you an endless barrage of “Why” questions because he wants you to give him your undivided attention. Hal Gregerson, a professor at the European graduate business school INSEAD and a questioning expert, tellsScary Mommy, “A child asks why over and over again either because we do not understand their question or are not listening to them.”
Your child is being defiant
In some cases, your child might be asking those “Why” questions because he wants to challenge your authority. For example, when you try to have him brush his teeth, he might say, “Why should I brush my teeth?” When you try to mediate a sibling fight, he might say, “Why should I be nice to my sister?”
Hearing your child present you with an endless chain of questions can undoubtedly test any parent’s patience. And when we are in knee-deep in everyday chores and responsibilities, all that asking can seem like a nuisance. The result you feel guilty because your kids feel like they are being ignored or even abandoned. To tackle your curious child’s whys, here are different things you may want to try.
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Give your child an answer
As Scary Mommywrites, “Sometimes all your child needs is a straight answer to the questions they ask.” So instead of ignoring or shutting him down, try doing your best to give him the answer, or at the very least, the solution closest to the one he is looking for. This may not necessarily mean the questions will stop, but think of it this way: your child’s curiousity says he wants to learn.
Don’t be afraid to say “I don’t know”
Sometimes, the questions your child gives you might be about things you know nothing about or things he might not yet understand well at his age. It’s okay to say you don’t know the answer. Use it as an opportunity to do a bit of research with your little one!
When your child shoots you with a “why” question, one thing you can try is turning the matter back to him. For example, if he asks you, “Why do dogs bark?” you can give him the chance to think about the answer to the question himself. Get ready to hear a creative or even hilarious answer from your little one!
One important note: When you return the question to your child, mind your tone! “If you seem annoyed while asking, it may have the opposite effect of what you were trying to achieve,” saysScary Mommy.
While trying to keep up with your child’s endless questions can be challenging in itself, being as patient as you can is all the more critical when your child is being defiant or hard-headed. When he asks, “Why should I brush my teeth?” resist the urge to reply, “Because I’m telling you to.” Instead, your child will benefit more from you explaining to him why brushing his teeth is very important. This way, you avoid getting into a power struggle with your child or even causing him to throw a fit.