Picture this, you are in the car, you’ve been driving for all of 5 minutes, and you’re child has already asked you:
“Why do I have to wear shoes?“
“Why are there clouds in the sky?“
“Why is my sister sleeping?“
“Why do I have to sit in a car seat?“
“Why did we have to stop at the light?“
You are getting to the point where you are about to snap and yell, “I DON’T KNOW, STOP ASKING ME!”.
Let me tell you; you are not alone. The “why” stage can be so triggering for many parents, and today I want to dig deep into why this stage is actually really important for our children and what we can do when we are feeling triggered by all of these questions.
When children ask us why repeatedly, it can be really frustrating at times, we love their curiosity, and at the same time, we sometimes secretly wish they wouldn’t be quite so curious so often.
Why Do Kids Ask Why?
Whenever I think about this topic, I always go back to this incredible quote by Alison Gopnik: “Asking questions is what brains were born to do, at last when we were young children. For young children, quite literally, seeking explanations is as deeply rooted a drive as seeking food or water.”
Children’s brains are developing at rapid speeds. Their questions may seem repetitive, but answering them actually helps our children make sense of the world. It’s fascinating when we think of the constant connections these little minds are making.
So while our children need to ask questions, test boundaries, and try new things to make sense of the world, it doesn’t mean it’s easy for us as parents. It can be tough to constantly be asked questions all day long and can be a big trigger for many parents.
5 Practical Ways To Help Your Curious Child
Why = Tell Me More
Think about the question “Why?” as your child saying, “tell me more.” They want to hear more from you so they can learn about this topic. Take the time to give them an answer when you can. If we keep this “tell me more” meaning in mind during those days where all we hear is “why this, why that” all day long, it can really help us to remember that our child’s brain is developing and they are trying to make sense of their world.
As we respond to their questions, their minds are constantly coming up with more questions to help them learn more about this topic: Is the answer the same when we are in a different situation? Does stopping when the light is red apply to all stop lights?
Set Boundaries When Needed
Boundaries can be so helpful and can support our little ones when they come from a place of unconditional love and care. If you feel triggered by all of the questions, setting a boundary can help you come back to a place of calm where you can continue answering your child’s questions.
“Ah, I love your curious mind! You have so many questions. We are going to take a break from questions for now and can answer more later!“
Allow For Curiosity
Believe it or not, sometimes one of the best ways to answer our child’s “why” questions is by asking them one back. This helps them answer their own questions and develop their independent curiosity.
Here’s an example. Imagine you are at the beach with your child, and they are watching a group of seagulls, and they ask you, “Why do the seagulls have wings?” You could respond and explain that they use their wings to fly, or you could respond with a question: “You’re right; the seagulls do have wings. I wonder if you could watch them and see what they use their wings for?”
In this example, instead of just answering the question, which would likely lead to more questions, you are giving the child the chance to get curious themself. You are giving them some guidance on how they might find the answer to their questions (by watching the birds) and allowing them to be curious and answer their own question. Of course, this response might not work with every question we get, but keep this in mind as you respond to your curious child.
Stay Curious About The Why Behind The Why
Sometimes questions are soothing for kids to hear the answer to. Stay curious about this and investigate the potential fear behind the question. Kids may ask questions repeatedly because hearing the same answer creates a sense of safety in the child. It feels familiar, and they know what to expect. Other times, it is just a way to build conversation with you, and if you talk about something else, it will satisfy this need.
“I hear you keep asking me about _______. I’ve already answered it. I wonder why you’re still curious?“
I hear you asking me why we are going to grandpa’s again; what’s up?
Ask Them To Find Answers
On those days where you feel like you can’t answer one more question, you can encourage your child to try and find the answer. Reflect on their question to let them know you heard them, and ask them what they can come up with.
I love how curious you are. That’s such a great question! I wonder what answers you can come up with?”
I love your curious mind! It’s fun to watch you learn all about the world. We’re going to put a pause on questions right now, but I can’t wait to hear what you come up with!”
I hope that reading through these practical tools for supporting children who won’t stop asking why has helped you to appreciate how important it is for them to ask these questions!