Children are curious about everything. As a result, they ask a lot of questions. One of the most asked questions by children is the “why” questions. As a parent or guardian, you might wonder how you can answer these types of questions. In this article, I will suggest some ways you can respond to your child’s why questions.
How to answer a child’s why question? Sometimes it’s easier to say “no” or answer mindlessly. But as parents or guardians, you should respond in an elaborate yet easy to understand way. It is also helpful to turn it into a discussion or conversation. When all else fails, there’s nothing wrong with admitting that you don’t know the answer. Finding answers together will be a memorable experience for the child.
Children ask tons of questions and sometimes it can be baffling. But, it is important to understand the reasons why they ask questions. It is also helpful to have an idea of how to answer them. Below are more details about a child’s “whys” and how to deal with it.
Why do children ask “why?”
When children reach a certain age, they start to be more curious and ask questions. According to a 2017 Independent UK article, children ask about 73 questions per day. This can be challenging – especially for first-time parents. Yet, the “why stage” of a child is a crucial part of their cognitive development.
Children’s ability to ask questions shows the range of their cognitive capabilities. They ask “why” to seek facts or explanations. They are inquisitive by nature and interested in their environment. It is typical for them to ask how or why things work or happen.
Most common types of a child’s “why?”
Before learning how to respond to a child’s why question, it is helpful to know the classifications. Scholars at the University of Belgrade identified three types of most asked questions. Those are the cognitive, social, and operational queries.
The cognitive why
Also known as the “curious why”, these are questions children ask to gain new information. These questions allow the child to have a better understanding of things or people around him or her. The primary purpose is to improve their knowledge.
The social why
The goal of these questions is to meet the child’s interpersonal needs. Although the queries also aim to get information, it aims to start a conversation. Some questions might be self-explanatory, but the child will ask it to socialize. In other words, children ask to seek attention.
These are questions that focus on seeking help or permission. Children ask them to have support for their operational needs. .
Bonus: The mischievous why
Usually, this type of “why” is used when the child is having a temper tantrum. Children practice it to express feelings of anger or irritation. It is also a sign of disobedience and protests during arguments.
Ways to respond
Sit and spend time to answer the question
Children ask so many questions and some of them are tough to answer. Still, parents or guardians should listen and engage. Allot time to listen and filter their questions. After that, you should try explaining in a way that the child can understand. Put an effort into answering questions that focus on the child’s learning. Communicating also improves the relationship between a parent or guardian and child. .
Avoid saying “no” or “because I said so”
Discipline is different from being dismissive. Replying “no” or “because I said so” can cause the child to feel discouraged and confused. This hinders their curiosity and decreases their motivation to learn. Instead, empathize and give them reassurance. Most importantly, encourage them to ask questions.
Ask the child to answer the question/s
Sometimes try hearing about their thoughts or opinions. Ask the child what he or she thinks is the answer to the question. This encourages them to think and be confident
Admit it when you don’t know the answer
Of course, there are questions that even an adult can’t answer. It’s okay to mention that you don’t know the answer. It teaches them that being honest about not knowing is acceptable.
Find answers together
After admitting that you don’t know the solution to your child’s question, join them in finding the answer. Turn it into an activity between you as a parent or guardian and the child. Help them realize there are many other ways to find answers.
Talk about related topics or subjects
One way to respond when you don’t have an answer is to ask or tell them about something that is related to the question. This may spark their interest in various topics.
Manage your emotions
Being bombarded with many questions can be exhausting. But instead of scolding your child, be patient. Calmly talk to them and explain why you can’t answer their questions. Whether it’s because you are busy or preoccupied, your child deserves an explanation.
How to encourage a child to ask substantial questions
Some questions have straightforward answers. What, when, and who questions from a child are easy to resolve. From a child’s perspective, these queries might also be easier to understand.
Questions such as why and how are different. This can be more complex and will need the child to have a broader understanding. These types of questions are more meaningful since it develops their cognitive skills.
Listed below are tips to encourage a child to ask meaningful questions.
Ask them questions
A young child will ask queries centered on who, what, where, and when. The level or type of questions improves as they grow and develop. You can influence them by asking them why (and how) questions. This can also exercise their critical thinking abilities.
Use their favorite books or learning materials
A way to make them ask better questions are through their favorite books, shows, or toys. Ask them questions that are connected to the story or objects that they like. Some example questions include:
- Why did that happen?
- How does it work?
- Why did the characters (from the book or show) say that?
- Why is the character sad or happy?
Tell them the importance of asking questions
The best way to encourage a child is by talking to them. Tell them the beneficial effects of asking questions. Praise or recognize their effort for asking good queries. This can help increase their confidence. It also inspires them to learn more about many things.
How to approach toughest why questions
Children have many questions – some are more challenging to answer. Sometimes these tricky questions are hard to explain. It can also be a philosophical issue that focuses on existential or complex subjects.
- Why is my body different from my sister/brother or other kids?
- Why do we die?
- Why do some people have smaller or no homes?
- Why are (the adults) fighting each other?
- Why is my skin color different from my friend?
Aside from the tips mentioned above, there are ways to address puzzling questions.
Usually, research is not required when responding to a child’s why question. It can be answered based on background knowledge or experience. But for harder queries, it does not hurt to do a little research. Seek books or learning materials that are child-friendly. These can provide an idea on how to answer. Give an age-appropriate answer to your child. Talk about it in a way that he or she can absorb what you are saying.
Provide comfort and reassurance
Again, find out why the child is asking a certain question. Is it to gain information? To engage in conversation? Some sensitive questions may have an effect on a child’s well being. It is important to console and reassure the child before addressing the issues.
Children have many various reasons why they ask “why?”. The main reason is because of their curiosity and eagerness to learn. They also ask questions to bond with other people. There are also many ways the parents or guardians can respond. The most important is to understand our children and encourage their development. Listening and communicating with them is the best approach you can do as a parent or guardian.
Does asking a child questions have the same effect on their learning and development? When parents start asking questions, children can sharpen their critical thinking. This allows them to express their feelings, opinions, and understanding of the subject. This can also guide them to plan and enquire questions. Giving the children time and opportunity to ask their queries.
Is there a connection between the responses and the amount of questions children ask? Children ask questions to people that they trust and/or love. They know these people might give them the information that they need. When deciding whether to ask more questions, children depend on the responses they get. If parents keep on dismissing the questions, children might feel discouraged. This might cause the child to control themselves from asking queries.