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Answer The Whys

Aug 17, 2007
When I was younger (and probably still now) my favorite question was Why? --Why this? Why that? Why does this happen? Why do you want me to do it? Why should I do it this way? I was a thoughtful child and for the most part my mother answered those whys with patience and gentleness. There were many times that I'm sure that she answered I don't know, or because I said so. I was pretty stubborn if something didn't make sense for me to do I would not consider that answer to be valid. However when the why was answered and I could make sense of something, I would respond with confidence, attention and focus on the task immediately.

I think children ask the whys for many reason. The first answer is that they are becoming thoughtful beings. They have a developing understanding of their immediate world, and you as the parent or guardian are the filter to that world. It is through expression of curiosity and a fulfilling answer that they begin to take cognitive jumps of reason, begin to fill in the gaps of the stimuli that they are receiving everyday, and that they make sense of the puzzle pieces all around them. Since most of the human contact to a child comes from the care giving parent, it is a reasonable for the child to think that you know all the answers.

The second reason that a child asks the why is a form of test of you as they begin to get older. Are you going to be there for me? Are you still going to love me? Do you want to hold me when I'm doing something that is not very nice? Do you still know everything? Do you have the correct answer? Should I trust you?

Another reason that the child asks the whys is a form of reassurance that you are still present, and that you and s/he still have interaction. She or he likes to hear the sounds of your voice, and that you acknowledge that he or she is smart, and understanding, and thinking about things.

The whys, also answer and confirm the child's own perception of the world. S/he begin to develop her/his own tastes, interests, appreciations, thoughts, and details that s/he are focusing on and that are important to her or him. The confirmation comes by the way that you answer the why question. As she begins to grow you can reflect some of the whys back to her. Why do you think it's a good idea? Why do you think that we should clean your room? Why do think that we have to be to school on time? Why do you think that the bird's wings are the way they are? Or you can say "Lucy, Michael, you know why? You tell me why we can do this?

It helps their own thought patterns and confidence when children are able to manage an answer to the why. If you allow the whys to be asked you can begin to have simple discussions with your children, and as they get older they will assimilate greater details and complexities of this world, and have an in depth understanding of how things work.

I really believe that even young children can have understanding of complex issues if you talk with them as if they can understand. Never underestimate the child's ability to grasp something if you break it down into little bits of information that s/he can manage. Too many times, children have not been exposed to expanded knowledge, or allowed to be part of a discussion.

I think many parents are intimidated by their children's thought process, and the whys and why nots because they don't want to look foolish in front of the children and also because they don't really think about a fulfilling answer that the child can grasp for his or her age. They just assume that the child will not understand anyway. If you take a moment and really think about how best to answer that question so that he can understand and can process it for himself, you can have a really special engaging moment with him.

In answering the question why for some parents or guardians, it brings up the parents own insecurities, hesitation or fear. If you really don't know the answer to the question, it could be a great opportunity to answer candidly "I don't know. But we can find out together by going to the library." Just by answering truthfully, it shows that you don't know all the answers, but you can create an adventure of discovery. It could also show your child that it is okay that he/she doesn't have all the answers stored in his/her brain either.

Even a question, that addresses compassion such as giving food, clothing or assistance to others in need, can be used as a tool to create greater empathy or compassion in your child. Remember that children learn by example. Make them aware of people in need and how you both can help. Answering the initial why will probably lead to other whys but the child will be developing and connecting to causes or better way of being for both the planet and his/her own spiritual development.

So as often as you can, answer the whys. When you really don't know, don't lie, don't pretend, and don't ignore your child. Make an adventure out of finding the answer. The whys are only going to transform into thread of discussion and interaction if they are answered. If they are not answered, they become bewilderment, confusion, frustration, bitterness, and eventually the whys stop coming because someone else is answering them.copyright 2006 Yoga Kat
About the Author
Yoga Kat teaches children's yoga ages 3-6, 7-12yrs and Adults in NJ. The Author of the book DAUGHTER BELOVED and created a children's affirmation CD and an adult affirmation CD. Available for speaking and reached at yogakat@verizon.net or 201 970-9340--COMING SOON -http://www.thecircleofpeace.com
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