Friday, May 10, 2013

Why do you ask "why?"!

It's a long standing joke about kids who ask "why" over and over. But honestly when you are living it, it is no laughing matter. As a matter of fact, it can drive a family crazy.

When my daughter was going through the "why" phase, I thought -there's got to be a better way! I can't keep answering why because we always ended at "because that's just the way it is!" Plus language development-wise just a simple "why" is not a complete sentence.

My first insight into the solution came when I started asking "Why, what?" back at her.  Over a few days, I modified my response to where I required that she give me a complete question. I finished my request for clarification by telling her "you have to ask me a better question." At first she would need me to give her examples. So, if I asked her to go get her sneakers and she asked "why," instead of saying "because we are going to school and you have to wear shoes to school" I would say "why, what? You need to ask me a better question. Why do I need to wear my sneakers? or Why do I have to get my sneakers? or Why do I have to get the sneakers?"

Then she would pick one. Let's just say she chose "Why do I have to get the sneakers?" I would give her a reasonable answer "because you are going to play on the playground at school." Why? Grrrrr! So I would respond (again) "why, what? You need to ask me a better question. Why are we going to the playground at school? or Why do I need sneakers to go on the playground?" After 2 or 3 times she would be done with my line of questioning and move on to something else.

After a few days of constantly responding with this "why, what?" scenario, she started doing it on her own! And do you know, the most interesting thing happened. She asked great "why" questions that I had not even thought of and we have had some really interesting conversations about digestion, the water cycle and a myriad of topics I never would have delved into with a 3 year old. She can now form a question to ask exactly what she wants to know instead of my trying to just pacify her by giving her a response or answering what I think she is wondering about.

An interesting question came when we were getting ready to walk across a road. We stopped and looked both ways, I told her to hold my hand and we would cross. She asked "why." I thought she was wondering about why she had to hold my hand. I was totally ready to tell her that she is too young to cross the street alone and then go into the dangers of cars and crazy drivers. But no, she asked "why are we ready to cross the road." And the answer to that was "because we looked left and right and there were no cars coming so it is safe to cross." Totally different answer.

Maybe our kids incessant "why" questions are because we are not answering the right question. So let's teach them to ask a better question! Good luck! Let me know if you have any of those "aha!" moments where they ask a complete question that was not what you were expecting!

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