Imagine being handed a dollar every time your kid asked the question “why?”.
We’d all be insanely wealthy, except for whoever was responsible for forking over the dollar bills.
Kids are naturally curious because honestly, they know close-to-nothing about the world.
Curiosity is the reason for their constant requests for why the things are the way they are, why people do the things they do, and why they’re forced to go along for the ride.
But it turns out, there’s a deeper reason for the constant question, and more often than not the “why” doesn’t mean “why.”
Kids don’t have a better way to ask.
Physician and author Alan Greene explains in his post “Why Children ask ‘Why'”…
When children begin to learn real words, the words usually don’t correspond exactly to the way adults use them. Often a specific word is used to indicate an entire category or visa versa.
Dog might mean any animal, while meow might mean cat but only one cat.
These early discrepancies are cute and obvious and should be caught on videotape if at all possible.
But by the time children are able to speak in sentences, it sounds deceptively like they mean the same thing we do.
This happens at about the same time their curiosity, imagination, and creativity skyrocket.
They begin to ask, Why? Why?!?! WHY, Mommy, WHYYYYY?
In other words, when your kid has a question, notices something interesting, or wants to know more about the world, he or she doesn’t have the vocabulary to ask incredibly specific questions. The best they can come up with is “why?”
Long story short – your kid wants to talk about the topic to try to make sense of the world.
Here’s Dr. Greene’s suggestion on handling the constant W question.
I’ve found that, when I try to answer children at this stage of development with the reason for something, they are left cold.
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?’
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.
Give this a shot the next time you’re bombarded with a barrage of “whys” all day.
Another idea, one I use from time to time, is to ask my kids, “well, why do YOU think?” and let them talk until they no longer care to talk about the subject.
Even if they’re COMPLETELY WRONG, I’ll say “good thinking.”
I’ve found this approach also works with adults.
[via Dr. Greene]