Why, oh why, do children always ask WHY?
[From Messages in a Bottle: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood by L.R.Knost available June 2013; Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages by L.R.Knost now available on Amazon.]
Parenting can be difficult, no doubt about it. From inexplicable meltdowns to incessant whining to maddening tattling, the evolution of a child’s communication skills can take a serious toll on a parent’s patience. And just when a child’s language skills become advanced enough for parents to begin to see the proverbial ‘light at the end of the tunnel,’ it hits…The ‘Why’ Zone.
“Why do birds have feathers and people have skin?”
“Why can’t I have a rocket?”
“Why don’t lakes have waves like the ocean does?”
“Why are oranges orange?”
“Why don’t snakes have legs?”
“Why do people have to sleep?”
“Why don’t monkeys wear clothes?”
“Why don’t we live on the moon?”
“Why does ice have to be cold?”
“Why can’t my frog sleep in my bed?”
“Why do we have hair?”
“Why can’t I have cookies for breakfast…and lunch…and dinner?”
“Why don’t clouds come in my window?”
Why? Why? Why do they always ask why? As annoying as it certainly can be, the ‘why’ stage serves several extremely important purposes.
It is during this stage that children have fully made the cognitive shift to understanding that they are an entirely separate person from their parents, and, in healthy parent/child relationships, with that knowledge comes a need to literally ‘investigate’ their parents, find out what makes them tick, how they think, who they are. The ultimate purpose of this ‘probing’ is identifying with their parents by examining and internalizing their values, knowledge, and belief systems.
As children begin identifying with who their parents are, they are learning problem solving skills by listening to their parents’ thought processes. They’re also learning that their parent’s don’t know everything, and they’re learning that that’s okay. And, perhaps most importantly, they’re learning that they can always go to their parents with questions, no matter how random or trivial they may seem at the time, a vital element in establishing and maintaining a strong communication channel for the latter years of childhood and into adulthood.
And, really, would we want to quash the ‘why’s’ even if we could? Asking ‘why’ is the sign of a healthy and natural curiosity. As Albert Einstein said, “The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.”
Asking ‘why’ paves the way for discovery, invention, innovation, and creativity…
Why can’t we fly… inspired Orville and Wilbur Wright to invent and fly the first fixed-wing airplane.
Why can’t we go into space… inspired Sergey Korolyov to design the first manned spacecraft.
Why shouldn’t we be able to communicate when we aren’t together… inspired Alexander Graham Bell to invent the telephone.
Why do we have to write books by hand… inspired Johannes Gutenberg to invent the printing press.
Why don’t we float off the earth… inspired Sir Isaac Newton to develop Newton’s Law of Universal Gravitation.
Why doesn’t gravity work exactly the same way on everything… inspired Albert Einstein to develop the Theory of Relativity.
So, while you’re at your wit’s end in the midst of The ‘Why’ Zone, keep reminding yourself of the important work your child is doing. Listen. Respond thoughtfully. Ask questions in return. And don’t be afraid to say you don’t know (an excellent opportunity to head to the library for some interest-led learning!)
Sharing yourself, your thoughts, your culture, and your values with your child; growing a strong, open communication channel; and encouraging a healthy curiosity are all invaluable investments in your child’s future, even if they are at the expense of a bit of peace and quiet in the present!
When a child tattles, what they are actually doing is a rudimentary form of the advanced life skill of ‘Pause. Think. Respond.’ but they need help finding an appropriate and effective response. The child who seeks out an adult for guidance is indicating trust in the adult and respect for the adult’s opinions and abilities. Rethinking Tattling
Here’s a shocker for you: Whining is actually a sign of maturity! Yep, that unnerving, endless, nails-on-a-chalkboard, make-your-head-explode whine is a sign that your little one is growing up and, get this, gaining self-control! I can see your heads shaking, but read on, parents, caregivers, and bleeding ears of the world, read on. Why Whining is a Win!
One effective tool for use in helping little ones cope with big emotions is a Calm-Me-Jar. Toddlers, Tantrums, and Time-Ins, Oh My!
We’ve added a Dr Seuss Quiet Bag to our Parenting in Public: Toddler Time page, and we’re working on a Dr Seuss Quiet Book, too!
The most challenging, independent children tend to be the ones who need the most intentional parental reconnection. Strong will=Strong need! Testing the Boundaries~What’s A Parent To Do?