Why, Why, oh, will someone please tell me WHY?!!

We've been wondering when it would start, and like a switch it started last week. One day Anthony just started asking “why” at any and every chance.

Here's a representative conversation:

Anthony:What are you eating?
Daddy:(some answer)
Daddy:Well, because it's dinner time and I'm hungry.
Daddy:Why is it dinner time or why am I hungry?
Anthony:(thinks for a bit)
Why is it dinner time?
Daddy:Earlier we ate lunch, and now it's getting dark, and so now it's dinner time.
.... continue ad infinitum ...

We're thrilled that he's curious and we try to answer as best we can, but indeed it does get on one's nerves during our weaker moments. I've found that I occasionally resort to the “because I said so” answer (soon, I'm sure, to be shortened to just “because”) when he asks “Why?” to a command. It's one thing to answer a question, but I don't want to get into the habit of justifying parental orders to his satisfaction. (I'm probably being too uptight about it... we'll see).

In any case, he generally actually listens to the answers (he can later recall them), so it's wonderful that the sponge is actively trying to fill itself up. I hope he never loses the desire to understand. I certainly haven't yet.

Interestingly, I don't think I've yet heard this “why” phase yet in Japanese. Maybe because I use mostly English with him, or maybe his “Japanese brain” is in a different mode?

[Update: Fumie tells me that he does in Japanese as well... “なんで、なんで?”]

All 5 comments so far, oldest first...

While certainly a parent is under no obligation to “justify their parental orders”, a certain amount of answering the “why” on questions like “Why must I do this?” can be invaluable. If the rote answer becomes “because I said so” (or, “because”), the child may eventually form the opinion that your wanting him to clean his room or pick up his toys is just your whim, and something you’re able to enforce because you’re older than they are, etc.

I’m certainly not saying that a parent should spend a long time giving a dissertation on the value of “picking up one’s own toys” but making sure there isn’t that “whim” perception could be invaluable. If the child is taught at an early age that “mom and dad have a reason when they tell me to do something”, they might be less likely later on to simply disregard instructions they disagree with.

Not being a parent, I can’t say for sure, but the logic seems sound to me. 🙂

— comment by Derek on January 4th, 2006 at 11:22pm JST (11 years, 11 months ago) comment permalink

That logic is indeed very sound, Derik. Although it certainly wasn’t obvious in my post that it’s obvious to me, it is. Certainly, any time he asks “why” because he wants to know the answer, we’re thrilled to give it to him. But there are times when he whines the word, and you know then that it’s not asking for information, but a simple way to say “I don’t want to”. That’s when the “because” gets whipped out.

If I were stronger during those trying, tired times, I’d perhaps explain more and make him want to do whatever it is I’m ordering, but at some point the preservation of my sanity rises above the need to teach. 😀

— comment by Jeffrey Friedl on January 5th, 2006 at 12:46am JST (11 years, 11 months ago) comment permalink

Well, I successfully managed to confuse one youngster with the following reply:


“Zee! I win! Yay!!”

— comment by jr on January 5th, 2006 at 2:32am JST (11 years, 11 months ago) comment permalink

during those times, I would explain the bad consequences of not doing actions if possible

— comment by Claytonain on January 5th, 2006 at 6:35pm JST (11 years, 11 months ago) comment permalink

We have it at home as well … double :-))
Carina and Hannah do exactly the same as Anthony does.
Why … why … why …
We do our best always to reply in a serious way and to explain.
But in the evening, after an exhausting day at work, very tired and sleepy, sometimes it does not work out.
In these special cases we respond like ‘Why do you think it is like this?’ or ‘What did I say last time at this situation?’ and sometimes even ‘Honey, daddy is deadly tired, can we shift my reply to tomorrow morning?’
Believe it or not, it works out.

— comment by Thomas on January 27th, 2006 at 10:13pm JST (11 years, 11 months ago) comment permalink
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