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It’s 11 pm. After a really long day, you’re ready to tuck yourself in bed and enjoy sound sleep. You close your eyes, ready to be transported to another world, when suddenly your little one shakes you up to ask, “Mummy! Why do stars come at night? Why can’t we see them during the day?”
“Seriously? You expect me to answer this at 11 in the night?” This is what your first thought is at the unexpected turn of events. But this is not what you say because you know there’s no easy way to shut that little mind from thinking or questioning.
You shut them out now; they would be ready with another set of questions (new, same, or similar) the very next morning. “Where does the sun come from? Where does it go in the evening? Does it sink in the sea at sunset? Why do clouds move?”
If not the heavy science-types, there are relatively simpler ones as well (though not so simple for you). “Why do I have to bathe everyday?” You try explaining the importance of personal hygiene and they’d be asking, “Why don’t animals bathe everyday then?”
They’ve got a load full of them even as you wonder how does their tiny brain come up with all these “whys” and “hows” (some extremely hilarious ones too). The truth is: kids don’t just ask questions to annoy or irritate you, or to make you laugh either. There’s a definite science behind it all.
Kids Get The Most Inquisitive By Age 4
Research suggests that kids on an average tend to ask as many as 73 questions per day! A study at the University of Michigan states that children start getting curious about themselves and the world around them by the age of 4. Actually, kids as young as 2 years may start posing questions. Between the age of 2-5 years, they start getting more curious. Around the time they turn 4, their inquisitiveness hits its peak.
As children get more familiar with the sights and objects in the environment they live, their already curious and imaginative minds start working at the speed of light! All kinds of questions start popping up in the little minds at work. The things they see, hear and feel around them, they want to know how, why, when and where did it all come from.
Since parents are their first point of contact for everything, they start shooting these question missiles at them, innocently indeed, in the eager hope to get satisfactory answers.
Kids don’t ask questions to annoy or irritate you, or to make you laugh. There’s a definite science behind it all.
Reasons Behind the Endless Whys
There’s again a well-researched answer to the FAQ of nearly every parent: Why do kids ask too many questions? Here are some common reasons why children have lots of whys and hows about everything:
They are genuinely seeking explanatory answers. Growing kids start applying logic and reason to everything. This trend can usually be observed in kids aged between 4 and 10 years. It may be as simple a query as “why should I bathe” to something with far-reaching effects as “how do floods happen?” These questions are actually the young minds making genuine attempts at understanding the ‘cause and effect’ of all that goes around them.
They are seeking your attention. This is another common tactic adopted in kids, generally those aged 2-3 years. Sometimes, kids start feeling neglected or left out because parents are busy with their work. They then resort to measures like asking questions one after the other (which might get annoying sometimes) only to get mom and dad to attend to them.
They are simply trying to ape you. Try telling them not to use mobile phone for too long and snap comes the reply, “Why do you use it so much then?” Try stopping them from applying makeup and another “why” would be ready right back at you. Can’t blame them because they’re simply following their role models, right?
They are scared and seeking assurance. Kids have impressionable minds. Sometimes disturbing news or events can cause the child to get scared beyond a reasonable limit. For example, if they happen to watch some news on floods on the TV or accidentally saw a scary image, it might keep lingering on their minds for unusually long. In this case, they might find it comforting to ask more questions to clear their minds of what’s bothering them.
The Endless Whys are Actually Good
Experts say that the seemingly never-ending list of questions that kids pose is actually a good thing. It only means that the child’s curiosity, imagination, and analytical and reflective skills are growing.
Children are naturally curious. This quality is deep embedded in their personality, which also explains why they do all the “naughty” stuff. They might just be acting their natural self, curious to find answers to why something is “forbidden” for them.
While it’s important to refrain kids from acting curious all the time, especially when it can be dangerous for them, experts say that it’s equally important to encourage their questioning tendencies. Here’s what you should and shouldn’t do when dealing with your little one’s whys and hows.
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Dealing With Kids’ Questions: What You Should Do
Now that we know why our children never tire out of asking questions all day on any subject under the sky, let’s see how we can deal with this flood in a way that works best for both:
It’s good practice to nurture the logical and reasoning ability of the little minds right from the very start. Each time the child asks a why or how, avoid giving a direct answer in the very beginning. Question them back with “What do you think is the reason?”
Experts say that by encouraging kids to reason out possible explanations/answers to their questions, parents can actually help children reflect more on their thoughts. For instance, when they come up with something like “how do stars come in the sky”, refrain from providing an answer at first. Instead, ask the child: “What do you think? How and from where do they come?”
It’s really amusing to see the imaginative explanations kids can come up with. They can think of equally creative possibilities as answers as their questions themselves! Let them explore, reason out and articulate their thoughts and ideas rather than spoon-feeding them with the answers.
Buy time to research
If the child isn’t able to come up with any possible explanation for the question posed and is completely blank on the idea, they’d obviously be expecting you to answer it. However, it’s possible that even you may not be completely sure of the correct answer at all times.
In such cases, avoid shunning away the child with a “I don’t know. Go out and play.” It’s important to admit honestly that you aren’t sure about this at the moment; however, you’d find out more about it and get back soon. Remember, it’s okay to say “I don’t know.”
This way, you’ll be buying time for yourself wherein you can either Google up the subject yourself or ask a subject expert. Always get back on the question later (even if they forget) and provide the correct answer to the child. You don’t want them growing up with half-baked ideas or incorrect notions in their minds. Besides, by getting back, you’d be building a sense of trust and confidence in the child to approach you whenever.
Set a time for later if you’re busy
More often than not, kids would come up with their whys when you’re in the middle of something - cooking, working on the laptop or something else important. It’s only natural to get annoyed or irritated with the unwelcome disruption to work. However, try and avoid getting angry or irritable. You’d only be putting off your little one’s enthusiasm to seek genuine answers to something bothering them.
This also doesn’t mean that you need to stop everything and answer (if it isn’t possible). Explain to the child politely that you’re currently busy and would get back to them at a later time. If possible, give them a time as well so that they can believe you and always make sure to get back approximately around the set time. This would help strengthen your child’s confidence in you.
When children are naughty, they might just be acting their natural self, curious to find answers to why something is “forbidden” for them.
What You Shouldn’t Do
Don’t ignore the question
Whether you’re busy, don’t know the answer or simply uncomfortable answering at the moment, try not to shut out the child completely. This may have way adverse effects than expected. One, the child may turn to other sources to satisfy its thirst of information. Some of these sources may be misinformed themselves (their peers, for example). You wouldn’t want your child to get incomplete or incorrect info now, would you?
Two, and this one’s most important. When you shun away an inquiring child, they may lose the confidence to ever approach you again. The child might get so upset as to never ask or share anything the next time. This may become more problematic in their growing up years, especially teenage when the child is going through a host of turbulent emotions.
On the other hand, giving them the confidence today to approach you with any question, and providing satisfactory answers, can go a long way in creating a strong bond of trust for a lifetime.
You don’t have to answer every question
Some questions may not be comfortable to answer as a parent or inappropriate to their age. For instance, sometimes innocent questions like “where do babies come from” can make parents rather uncomfortable.
In this case, there’s no dire need to answer the question right away. Of course, going by the above rules, it’s also not a good idea to shut them out; rather, you may try asking them back on what they think the answer could be.
They’d surely have thought of some idea on the subject. Perhaps, you can let them continue holding on to that idea for a little while longer, until they grow up to understand this better.
Don’t get into gory details
Sometimes kids may get too scared after having read, heard or watched something disturbing either in the real or virtual world. In this case, it might be a good idea if you start posing questions to the child on topics that perturb them. They might be uncomfortable to even bring up the issue at first but encourage them to reason it out. Ask their opinion on what they saw, what they feel is the problem and how it could be solved.
Once you get them talking on the subject comfortably, start gently addressing their fears. However, keep details to the minimum, preferably on a need-to-know basis (revealing only when you feel the child is ready for more realistic details).
Now encourage them to ask you more questions on what really are they afraid of. Try and comfort the child, assuring them of your presence and support always.
So you see, everything has a reason to happen, even your child’s endless queries. And it’s indeed important to address them at the right time (from the very start) in the right way. For, it may have long-lasting effects on their personality, both positive and not-so-favorable. The next time your child comes up with a question, secretly congratulate yourself because he/she’s growing into an intelligent being!
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