How to answer the 187 “Why?” questions a day


There’s something simultaneously endearing and obnoxious about a “Why?” child.  Endearing (in my opinion) perhaps because I was one.  Obnoxious, perhaps, because now I’m getting a taste of my own medicine with Eliza.  I even think Eliza might be more of one than I was.

And yes, there is an innate curiosity that you don’t want to stifle by ignoring the incessant questioning of “How?” and “What?” and “Why?”.  But there is also a point at which you cannot answer everything.  More importantly, would you want to?  I want to teach my children to think through things before they ask about them.  I also don’t want to encourage them to be attention hogs or let them know that they get under my skin.  When I was young, I figured out I could use “Why?” to get attention from my dad, and I enjoyed how I could control him with that simple, one syllable word, watching him go from cooperative with the first “Why?” to indifferent (come the 2nd) to annoyed (the third) and finally angry in a matter of seconds.

So, I find myself constantly trying to come up with thoughtful answers to the daily barrage of question darts.  Here they are:

1. Why/What do you think?  I use this one a lot, especially when I believe she can reason through an answer on her own.  And if she was just asking the question to hear herself talk, this stops the conversation.

2. Why not?  Similar to the first, if she asks me why I picked out a certain shirt to wear, I might not really have a reason, and this response helps bring out interesting conversation.

3. That should be obvious.  I thought I was a genius the day I started responding with this, because it immediately stopped about three “Why?” attacks.  But the fourth time, she then asked, “What does obvious mean?”  Now that she knows what obvious means, this phrase is another tool in the toolkit that stops her and makes her think.

4. I’ve already answered you (or I’ve already explained it).  When I say this, sometimes it works, but sometimes she’ll then say again, “But why, mommy?”  That’s when the next one comes in really handy.

5. I’m done answering questions right now.  This one’s great for when I’m particularly exhausted by her interrogations.  I used to say, “I don’t feel like talking right now,” but when I said that, she would respond with – you guessed it – “Why mommy?”  So If I say I’m not going to answer any more questions, it communicates that it really doesn’t matter if she keeps talking.  I’m not going to respond, so she gives up.  I reserve this for when I really need it.

6. Are you talking just to talk?  She sometimes responds, “Yes,” to this, which gives me an opportunity to talk to her about not always needing to be the center of attention, and allowing others a turn to speak.

If God has blessed you with an inquisitive child, and you have magical solutions, please share them with me.  Why, you ask?  Aww shucks, I just decided I’m done answering questions right now.

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