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Why, Mommy? Why?

Jen Klein is a New England-based technical writer and mother of three. When she isn't asking her kids to stop bickering, "caramelizing" the dinner or actively ignoring the dust bunnies under the couch, she enjoys knitting, gardening, pho...

Surviving the "Why?" phase

Sunshine is firmly in the "Why?" phase? It seems her response to every possible situation is to ask, "Why, Mommy?"

Why

"Why is it dinnertime? Why is it evening? Why is it after everyone gets home? Why is dinner after lunch? Why? Why?"

When I was still a perfect parent, before I had kids, I used to declare that I would never, never, NEVER!, answer one of my children's "Why?" questions with, "Because." Clearly that was before I actually experienced the insistent, persistent, circular, and sometimes inane cycle of "Why?" questions that come out of toddlers' mouths. There may be a reason for everything, but sometimes the reason really is, "Because."

Some questions are easier to answer than others

It's actually seems easier to answer the question "Why is the sky blue?" and all the resulting questions about diffuse sky radiation and the scattering of light (thank you, Internet!) than it is to give a satisfactory answer to a toddler for, "Why is it 6 o'clock?" Add in, "Why does 6 come after 5?" and "Why does 7 come after 6?" or any number of possible follow-ups and you understand that, "Because." is a perfectly valid response.

Sure, Sunshine wants to know why things are the way they are and it's an opportunity to teach a little, but the why questions often are more about a greater need for a bit of control of her surroundings and some attention than the actual reasons why something is the way it is. The question streams tend to start when we're in a busy phase of the day, when I'm stressed and trying to get dinner on the table before one of the boys' baseball games or something like that. Sometimes, though, they are just "Why?" question streams, in the middle of an otherwise quiet afternoon. "Why is there an outside? Why is there air outside? Why?"

A little reassurance goes a long way

If I would only stop and figure out a way to reassure her I could nip the why questions quickly. Usually, though, I'm too focused on what I am doing to even realize that this is what I need to do. So the questions continue. Later, I look back, occasionally having been less than fully patient, and think, "Why didn't I recognize that in the moment?"

Some days the answer is just, "Because."

Read more:

Building moral intelligence: 7 ways to nurture tolerance
Getting kids to help out
Getting your child from no to yes

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