“Our care of the child should be governed, not by the desire to make him learn things, but by the endeavour always to keep burning within him that light which is called intelligence.”
- Maria Montessori
The first plane of development, from ages 0-6, is filled with exploration using all of the senses.
Children in this age range are little scientists.
They've been born into a big, complicated world and they're doing everything they can to make sense of it and figure out where they fit within it.
One of our top responsibilities as parents is to support our children's natural curiosity and help them understand the world around them.
Sounds beautiful in practice... but can be a little trickier in real life.
After a long day, when you've been asked the 10th "why?" in a row, it can be really tempting to brush your child off or throw out a "because I said so!"
Dealing With The "Why" Stage
The “why” stage typically starts around 3. If you're not quite there yet, this post might still be worth reading because it'll come hard and fast when it does!
First and foremost, it's important to remember that when a child is asking "why?", they are asking so they can learn.
Information helps them to feel more secure and confident about how the world works. Think about how we feel as adults when we don’t understand something. It can be overwhelming and scary.
When we dismiss a child’s question, we are also sending the message that their curiosity isn’t important or valid.
What you can say instead of "Because I said so"
There's no easy way around this stage. It's important to remember that this stage is developmentally appropriate and in preparation for deeper learning.
The following ideas will help but don't beat yourself up if you still find yourself a little frustrated some days:
1. Repeat the Answer
After providing the answer initially, you can repeat it again. Remember to use simple language. If you give long-winded answers, you’ll lose their attention. If you offered an explanation that was too complicated the first time, try something simpler.
2. Help Them Understand
If you said no to something (i.e. you can't have a cookie before dinner) help them to understand why you said no, i.e. “it’s not safe” or “we don’t have time”. Explaining why they can’t do something helps them to make good choices later on and builds their reasoning skills.
For instance, you can help your child to understand that dinner food helps them grow and feel good but cookies do not. We use the term "growing food" in our house. Broccoli is growing food while popsicles are not. We can have treats and enjoy them but we need to have our growing food first.
3. Flip The Question Back To Your Child
Ask they what they think the answer is. After a few repetitions of my answer, I'll flip it around. "Why do you think the recycling bin is blue?" and we'll discuss it. This helps to validate their curiosity and view points.
4. Admit You Don't Know 🤷
Nobody knows everything. There's no shame in admitting you don't know the answer to something. Even better, you can suggest looking it up together on the internet or in a book.
5. Redirect Them
This will only work until a certain age and not in every instance but sometimes you can simply redirect to another activity once you've offered all possible answers and your child is still not satisfied.
Ultimately making space for children to ask ‘why” keeps communication open and you want that as your child grows.
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