The “Why?” Syndrome and a Parent’s Response

Why SyndromeAdmit it. You hate it when your kids ask “Why?” over and over and over again. It grates on your nerves and the questions NEVER come at a convenient time. I mean, come on! Once is enough! Kids will ask why. We.can’t.escape.from.it.

When my toddler starting asking “why?” to everything, I jokingly started calling it the “Why-Syndrome” because she couldn’t stop!

This is what a typical conversation sounded like:

Me: “Sofie, please go get your shoes on.”

Sofie: “Why?”

Me: “Because we are going to the store and we wear shoes to the store.”

Sofie: “Why?”

Me: “We need groceries and you have to wear shoes because the floors are dirty.”

Sofie: “Why?”

Me: “We need groceries to eat.”

Sofie: “Why?”

Me: “Sofie, please just go get your shoes on…”

Sofie: “Ok, Mami.”

 After about a week of this, that same exact conversation sounded like this:

Me: “Sofie, please go get your shoes on.”

Sofie: “Why?”

Me: “Sofie, just go get your shoes on and STOP ASKING ME WHY!!!”

Sofie: “Why?”

Me: “GO!!!”

Sofie: (((crying)))

We’ve all faced this phase in our kids’ lives and your reaction to it will shape your relationship with your child. Do you see them as a curious child in search of answers to a complex world of wonder and amazement or do you see them as an annoying little bee buzzing around your ear? This stage is extremely important in the development of their ability to gather information about the world around them. At this time, you are their primary mode of “information gathering”.

I quickly realized that every time I shut Sofie down when her string of “Why’s” started, I was chipping away at her love of questioning and her amazing curiosity. I started pondering why she was asking “why?” and as soon as I realized her motives weren’t to annoy the heck out of me, my attitude totally changed.

Here are a few things that helped me understand my daughter more and made dealing with the “Why-Syndrome” much easier:

1. Understand the meaning behind the “why”.

We need to understand the meaning behind the “why” and then we can answer it appropriately. A child does not ask “why” to challenge your authority or to make your life difficult. They are simply gathering more information and knowledge about the world around them. As they get older, teach them other ways of gathering information besides asking you such as using skills of observation, analysis, interviewing, and even searching online. Your job as a parent will soon transition from answering “why?” all the time to teaching good problem-solving skills. Then it will be your turn to constantly ask them “why?”!

2. Use “why” conversations as teachable moments.

“Why?” conversations teach our children important lessons about life. You do have the ability to change the course of the conversation by saying, “Did you know that…” and teach them something new. Stop responding with “because I said so” or “that’s just the way it is“. This only teaches them that you have no time for them or that they aren’t important enough to deserve your attention.

3. There is a time to stop “why” conversations.

There is room for telling them that you don’t have time right then to answer the “why” question. Just make sure you lead by example and don’t use “attitude” with them. Simply say, “Those are great questions. Why don’t we discuss them as soon as we get into the car?” Appropriate time and place is a valuable lesson for kids to learn. Just make sure that you really do answer their questions when you say you would!

Our children are precious and we want the best for them. We so often get caught up in the selfishness of thinking that the world revolves around us. It doesn’t. The world revolves whether we are in it or not, but you can make sure that your child’s revolving world is full of wonderment, curiosity, and the constant desire to learn more.

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