WHY WHY WHY WHY WHY WHY WHY! - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 27 Old 07-14-2011, 02:17 PM - Thread Starter
 
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My 4yo daughter is CONSTANTLY asking me WHY. Not realistic things that have a real answer, but almost out of a habit.

Example:
Me: Let's sit at the table, it's time for lunch.

Daughter: Why?

Me: It's lunch time, your food is ready, and when we are eating we sit at the table so we don't make a mess.

Daughter: Why?

Me: Why what?

Daughter: Why don't we want to make a mess?

Me: B/c then someone has to clean it up. It's easier to not make a mess, then we don't have to clean it up.

Daughter: Why?

Me: Why what?

Daughter: [[pause]] Why?

Me: Why what?

Daughter: [[longer pause]] um.... why.... why don't we like to clean up messes?

Me: Do you enjoy cleaning up a big mess?

Daughter: no.

 

We sit down, we get half way through lunch....

 

Daughter: Mommy, why do we have to sit at the table for lunch?

repeat entire conversation.

 

She is a very intelligent kid. She remembers everything (she can tell you what outfit she was wearing on her 2nd birthday, who attended the party, and a specific conversation she had). I think it's a habit, but this happens ALL. DAY. LONG. I'm not typically a yeller, and I like to think I have (or used to have) a lot of patience. I also have a 2 yr old son, and since having 2 kids with twice the needs, I can't always feed into the 10 minute "WHYWHYWHY" convo.

 

How do I make it stop?! I realize that's unrealistic, but how do I at least make it less frequent?! It's driving me to madness. I find myself finally yelling "STOP ASKING ME WHY!!! I ALREADY TOLD YOU WHY!!" ugh. not pretty!

I have tried turning it around, and asking HER "Why do you think?" But it only seems to distract for a second.

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#2 of 27 Old 07-14-2011, 03:08 PM
 
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When my dd went through that stage I would ask her to tell me what I had just said about why.  If she couldn't I would tell her that I would repeat it one more time and not again after that.  If she asked again I told her I was sorry she didn't pay attention when I told her before but that I wasn't going to say it anymore.  I would then do the broken record response of "I am not discussing this anymore" for a few rounds then stop responding because the answer wasn't going to change.  I always told myself I wouldn't say "because I am your mother and I told you to _______", but I said that a few times when I just couldn't do another response and wasn't in a state of mind where I could rationally deal with the back and forth.  I admire people who have never found themselves in that place if they actually exist, but I am just not one of them and neither are my other mom friends. 

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#3 of 27 Old 07-14-2011, 05:54 PM
 
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I would never want to discourage question-asking, especially when she's questioning things that can be pretty habitual and mundane and those are sometimes the best things to question. That being said, I can see how it would drive you insane!

Your exchange with her about lunch had me laughing out loud. It had a "Who's On First?" quality to it.  :-)

She's got some great questions, though. Maybe she's searching for the arbitrary, sensing things that don't make sense. What if you just said "Lunch is ready" and then sat down without another word, and began to eat. Would she have joined you? Would "Lunch is ready" have generated a "Why?" from her?

Maybe she was pushing back because you were stating things that were your opinion, and I bet anything she was pushing against them to see if they were really facts....

For example, "Lunch is ready" is a fact. And she can see with her eyes that you are sitting at the table and that there's a place set for her there. Without saying more, you could just trust her to join you.

You said " It's lunch time, your food is ready, and when we are eating we sit at the table so we don't make a mess." She asked Why because "we sit at the table so we don't make a mess" is actually probably what YOU do. On the other hand, SHE probably sits at the table because you tell her to. So she could have perceived your statement as question-worthy for that reason. (As in she could be thinking "it's not why WE sit at the table mom--speak for yourself!") She might have said that she doesn't like to clean up messes, but I have my theory on that (see below). But have you considered that kids aren't as mess-averse as we are? Cleaning up messes can be a chance for them to show mastery. When there's a spill, saying "whoops, there's the milk" and wordlessly handing her a sponge (withOUT a command to clean it up) can be a task some kids don't mind at all. In fact they might actually feel like a real grownup when they are allowed to see the problem and take action to solve it. It's we grownups who tack all the baggage onto cleanups.


You said " It's easier to not make a mess, then we don't have to clean it up" - again, your opinion. I'm not trying to be mean, here. I truly believe that's an opinion. A value judgment.


I maintain that her "no" at the end (about cleaning up messes) was the result of what they call "leading the witness" in TV courtroom shows.


This last one, halfway through lunch  "Mommy, why do we have to sit at the table for lunch?"
could have been marvelously answered with. "We don't! Let's sit on the floor." Grab 2 towels out of the linen closet and down you both go onto the floor for a picnic! She would have probably been DELIGHTED and you two could have shared a scandalously "improper" moment together.  :-)

I'm not criticizing. I'm just saying that kids have awesome BS detectors, and so much of what we parents say is, unfortunately, often BS. Not intentionally, but because we're tired, we're on autopilot, it's what we've always done, it's what our parents taught us…..all that. But it's BS anyway.


I think that one should never give the kid the impression that asking questions is yell-worthy. Tempting, yes, but you do NOT want her growing up, afraid to question what she sees as silly or arbitrary. But again, there's a time and a place for everything. You don't want her raising her hand in church and saying "Hey Reverend Smith, that stuff just sounds like make-believe!" She can learn to hold her questions until an appropriate time. So if she's making you nuts and you don't have a ton of time , instead of reacting negatively to her questioning, just honor her questions but tell her you can answer later (pick a time). And if she says "Why" to THAT…..you've already answered and are under no obligation to answer further. She will learn your boundaries in that regard.

Does that make sense?

 

So to answer your original question about what to do, I'd suggest trying to find out what she is REALLY asking, and answer that. Perhaps if she felt heard in that way, maybe the endless stream of Whys would slow down a bit.  :-)

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#4 of 27 Old 07-14-2011, 07:19 PM
 
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This cracked me up- I have an (almost) three year old who's very much into the "why" stage. I've realized that it's important to have a variety of approaches to the "why" question, depending on his actual interest in the answer, and how far into the rabbit hole we've already delved... Today, we started to really ask him "why?" back- not in a snarky, mocking way, but in a conversational way. After his first, "why", and my response, when he asks it again, I turn it around and ask him- ie, "Please don't throw that wiffle ball bat towards the patio." "Why?" "Because there are people sitting there, and it could hurt someone." "Why?" (Here's where I would normally continue with the increasingly ridiculous responses- "Because the bat is hard" "Because it's made of plastic" "Because it hurts to be bonked with something hard that is flying quickly through the air"  and so on....) Instead, I said, "Why? Why do you think?". The response? "Because it could hurt someone!" (Not to say he didn't say it again a few minutes later about something else, but in many different instances, especially after the first why-and-response, it's restored our ability to have a regular conversation while still addressing his need to better understand his world. The key is not to just say "why?" back, but to pose it as a question- "why, (name)? why do you think?- if I just say "why?" he just says it right back again)

(I had always thought, by the way, that this was a four-year-old-ish stage, and I'm hoping that, since he's not even three yet, we're getting it out of the way early and we aren't in for another two years of this...)

 

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#5 of 27 Old 07-15-2011, 05:15 AM
 
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My daughter does the same thing and she's five.  It's really just habit.  Her first response to any statement is "why?" - and it's the same kind of stuff.  If it's an actual question, I answer it once.  If she asks again, I say, "I just told you why.  What did I say?" Most of the time, if it's a habit-why, that heads it off.  If she's really trying to further a discussion, I'll ask her what she thinks.  As sometimes she really likes to just listen to herself talk, this can be a dangerous question but at least I'm off the hook for answering endless silly questions.

 

I don't think it has to be all that complicated.

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#6 of 27 Old 07-15-2011, 06:58 AM
 
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If I am not sure why, or I don't feel like explaining it, it is usually a good time for me to ask myself "why, indeed?" 

 

If I know the answer and I have given it and I do not feel like explaining myself again, I turn the why around and say, "hmmmm, Why do YOU think?" and listen to them work through their own logic and ideas.  Often times this leads to an very interesting discussion and sometimes some really silly fun chats.

 

Try it!


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#7 of 27 Old 07-15-2011, 07:25 AM
 
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I do the same as hakeber when I've run out of answers. I admit to DD, "Hmm, I don't know... What do you think?" Or I'll say something like "Maybe such and such" and she'll often turn out her own list of "Maybes" and really it's so interesting to hear what she comes up with!  And sometimes, I'll initiate the "Why?" just to hear what she thinks about this or that.

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#8 of 27 Old 07-15-2011, 07:33 AM
 
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For lots of kids the WHY STARTS as a strategy to keep a conversation going when they don't have the skills to do it any other way(but by 4 it probably IS a habit) - It was always easier for me to handle the why's if I kept that in mind - although my dd didn't go over board with this - I would do your best, as others have suggested to keep turning it back to her or direct the conversation to something she can more easily have a give and take with... your short, to the point and matter of fact answers is what is actually keeping the whys going - She just wants to have a conversation like a grown up so try and meet that need to the best of BOTH your abilities and see if that helps break the habit any...

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#9 of 27 Old 07-16-2011, 11:20 AM
 
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Oh that sounds familiar -- ds entered the 'why' stage about 1 month before his 3rd birthday and it lasted until he was 7. That's a lot of whys. His preschool teachers said that they'd never heard a kid ask so many 'why' questions.

 

For some kids, asking "why do you think?" helps stem the flow. Alas, for our son, that didn't help, it just made him mad. He really did want to know why. It got to the point that I would automatically answer 'why' to anything he said, which led to some hilarious conversations:

 

Me: After lunch we're going to the post-office to mail a package.

Ds: Why?

Me: Because it's grandpa's birthday and we're sending a present.

Ds. Oh.

Me: Because it's nice to send presents on someone's birthday.

Ds: (indignant) I didn't say "why"

Me: Oh, I thought you did.

Ds: "Why?"

Me: Because you always say "why".

Ds: "Why?"

banghead.gif

 

Honestly, when I was overwhelmed with 'why' questions, I looked at ds and said "I need 5 minutes without a 'why' question." "Why?" "Because I need to concentrate/think/relax and I can't do it if you're always asking why." "Why?" And then, I gave him The Look and he stopped.

 


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#10 of 27 Old 07-16-2011, 11:54 AM
 
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Ha! Oh, I remember that stage, and I imagine I'll be going through it again before too long. Ah, memories.

Yes, it is annoying, but I think at least almost all kids must do it. Answer what you can, but "Why do you think? might help sometimes.
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#11 of 27 Old 07-19-2011, 07:14 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LynnS6 View Post

Oh that sounds familiar -- ds entered the 'why' stage about 1 month before his 3rd birthday and it lasted until he was 7. That's a lot of whys. His preschool teachers said that they'd never heard a kid ask so many 'why' questions.

 

For some kids, asking "why do you think?" helps stem the flow. Alas, for our son, that didn't help, it just made him mad. He really did want to know why. It got to the point that I would automatically answer 'why' to anything he said, which led to some hilarious conversations:

 

Me: After lunch we're going to the post-office to mail a package.

Ds: Why?

Me: Because it's grandpa's birthday and we're sending a present.

Ds. Oh.

Me: Because it's nice to send presents on someone's birthday.

Ds: (indignant) I didn't say "why"

Me: Oh, I thought you did.

Ds: "Why?"

Me: Because you always say "why".

Ds: "Why?"

banghead.gif

 

Honestly, when I was overwhelmed with 'why' questions, I looked at ds and said "I need 5 minutes without a 'why' question." "Why?" "Because I need to concentrate/think/relax and I can't do it if you're always asking why." "Why?" And then, I gave him The Look and he stopped.

 


Oh my gosh, this is SO my DS!!!

 

When I get absolutely fed up with why (he's actually changed it to "how come?") I tell him that he has more questions than I have answers for right now. And when he inevitably asks, "How come?" I say, "because I just don't know everything."

 

This (sometimes) helps for awhile. Good luck! We're on 2 years and going strong of the why/how come questions. And, yes, I think a lot of times it is a habit with DS but a lot of the time he really wants to know something.

 


Married to my wonderful DH; Mama to DS born 6-07 and 4 in heaven brokenheart.gif1-06 (7 weeks) brokenheart.gif1-10 (6 weeks) and our twins 5-11, brokenheart.gifone sweet boy (17 weeks) and brokenheart.gifone precious baby girl (18 1/2 weeks).

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#12 of 27 Old 07-20-2011, 11:15 AM
 
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#13 of 27 Old 07-21-2011, 04:22 AM
 
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Make it stop? likely not possible. This too shall pass. 

 

I like to say "Why don't you tell me what you think, since I've already told you what I think" after the first round. 
Or be honest, and say I was really hoping to talk about our walk later, or read this book (or whatever)....is there something you'd like to do at lunch, or something you'd like to talk about? 

 

I think the WHY WHY WHY is often fishing for a good conversation, not always but sometimes. I've heard the most interesting things after a cycle of WHYS, like what will happen to Grandpas bones after he is in the ground. Make space for talk, then be honest about what you'd like to do too, there is nothing wrong with that ;) 


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#14 of 27 Old 07-21-2011, 02:08 PM
 
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I think it's good to turn it around. "Why do YOU think we need to....x, y or z?" Or maybe you can playfully do it her sometime when she's talking to you, see how she reacts. It will either delight or annoy her. 

 

I think it's also totally ok, if it's REALLY driving you crazy, to say something like, "honey, I'm exhausted and I'd appreciate it if you don't question everything I do or say for the rest of the afternoon, ok?"


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#15 of 27 Old 07-21-2011, 03:30 PM
 
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My DD went through a big why phase.  Sometimes she really wanted to know why, and sometimes she just wanted a conversation.  (Actually, she didn't want conversation so much as she wanted just to get me to talk to her.)  If she started asking why about stuff like the example in the OP, I would assume she really just wanted to hear me talk, and instead of actually answering her question, I would start talking about something related, or something I thought might interest her.  I also used to tell her sometimes, "That's enough whys for now."  (The first time I tried that, she said, "Why is that enough - " and then caught herself and stopped.)

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#16 of 27 Old 07-23-2011, 01:21 AM
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i think its normal

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#17 of 27 Old 07-27-2011, 01:59 AM
 
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My 4 year old does this and "whats after that" all day long. Her 2 year old sister has picked up on it. Ive started to loose it a little with them (lack of sleep can do that to you) so I started turning it back on them. Example:

Me: DD get your shoes on

DD: Why?

Me: Because we are leaving

DD: Why?

I stop it there because I know it just keeps going so I respond with "Why do you think we are leaving?"

 

The Whats after that thing is driving me even more nutty though. Its like she wants a run down of every little thing we are doing that day and doesn't like it if I don't tell her every little thing. Today she got upset because I changed the baby's diaper BEFORE breakfast instead of AFTER. Im thinking of making her a schedule chart so she can see what we are doing and in what order.

 

I keep telling myself that I rather she ask 100 questions then never ask 1. Some days I believe it shy.gif


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#18 of 27 Old 07-27-2011, 08:34 PM
 
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Oh, I LOVE this thread! These conversations are hilarious! 

 

My DD is 3 and just went through her first wave of the "why" stage. DH and I turned it into a game...a competition between the two of us, actually...we both were trying to never have to say "I don't know." This takes energy, but I found that the more philosophical and abstract I got in my answers, the quicker DD would lose interest. So it actually enabled me to end the string of questions pretty much whenever I wanted to; I would just give increasingly complex answers till DD moved on to something else. We would sometimes give silly answers too but mostly we'd try to be accurate but just really creative and funny and detailed...that way the conversations entertained us as much as they entertained DD. My favorite endings to long "why" conversations (these were both after long back-and-forths): 

 

DD: Why does Captain Hook want to kill Peter Pan? 

Me: It's a metaphor for the endless, cyclic battle between good and evil. 

DD: (blank pause with confused expression) Read the next page, please.  

 

 

And one with DH (I think DH won the "why" competition forever with this one): 

 

DD: Why is Tinker Bell jealous of Wendy? 

DH: Because she's codependent. 

 

(Yes, DD's "why" stage corresponded to her "obsessed-with-Peter-Pan" stage... :) )


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#19 of 27 Old 07-28-2011, 12:02 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lisavark View Post

Oh, I LOVE this thread! These conversations are hilarious! 

 

My DD is 3 and just went through her first wave of the "why" stage. DH and I turned it into a game...a competition between the two of us, actually...we both were trying to never have to say "I don't know." This takes energy, but I found that the more philosophical and abstract I got in my answers, the quicker DD would lose interest. So it actually enabled me to end the string of questions pretty much whenever I wanted to; I would just give increasingly complex answers till DD moved on to something else. We would sometimes give silly answers too but mostly we'd try to be accurate but just really creative and funny and detailed...that way the conversations entertained us as much as they entertained DD. My favorite endings to long "why" conversations (these were both after long back-and-forths): 

 

DD: Why does Captain Hook want to kill Peter Pan? 

Me: It's a metaphor for the endless, cyclic battle between good and evil. 

DD: (blank pause with confused expression) Read the next page, please.  

 

 

And one with DH (I think DH won the "why" competition forever with this one): 

 

DD: Why is Tinker Bell jealous of Wendy? 

DH: Because she's codependent. 

 

(Yes, DD's "why" stage corresponded to her "obsessed-with-Peter-Pan" stage... :) )


We've done this too.  I'm so glad we're not the ones.

 


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#20 of 27 Old 07-29-2011, 05:08 AM
 
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I have a great one for this,  remember when your parents explained something to you and really it sounded like they were just making an annoying noise that never stopped?!  My mom would explain something ridiculous for hours! 

 

And so I do this to my little "Why" baby.  If I tell her she needs to do something and she asks why... I explain why for as long as it takes for her to just do it.  It's gotten to the point that she knows why and if I say you need to pick up your clothes she does it.  However if it's something we've never discussed before she'll ask why.  And that's fine, I don't mind that and I'm glad she's asking.  But for the most part I think she thinks my explanations are just as obnoxious as her overly used why's.

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#21 of 27 Old 07-29-2011, 11:11 PM
 
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Ha, ha, ha!!!!  I am not laughing at you, but laughing through my tears with you!  ALL of my children do this-- yes, even my 20 month old.  (HMM, guess where she picked that up ???) 

 

Lisa is totally right-- be ridiculous in a funny way, and that will make them think . . .and give you a chance to be creative!

 

Now thinking about it, my 9 y.o. no longer does this.  She is in the next stage.  I seriously think she is going to be a lawyer.  Instead of why, it's "but."  She is able to find a loophole in EVERYTHING.


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#22 of 27 Old 07-30-2011, 04:26 AM
 
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My 3 year old is really bad about asking why also.  I know she does it out of habit most of the time.  Sometimes I have more patience than others but I've been answering her once and sometimes having to end it with "it is what it is".  That will usually get it to stop.  Of course, she'll start a new why series 2 mins later but it gets me out of the one I'm in :) 

 

I agree about not discouraging the questions but sometimes it is just TOO MUCH!  After I've answered her once, I'll tell her why do you think?  or I just answered that, do you remember?  Sometimes I ask her if she understood my answer to be sure she really isn't confused.  It all just depends on the situation. 

 

I keep telling myself this is just a phase, but she's been in this phase for atleast 6 months, maybe longer!

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#23 of 27 Old 07-30-2011, 02:05 PM
 
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DD went through this phase and I just started ignoring her. She stopped within a week. Obviously I answer real questions, but when a young kid asks you why they are trying to argue with you or stall or both.

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#24 of 27 Old 08-03-2011, 07:09 AM
 
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Quote:
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DD went through this phase and I just started ignoring her. She stopped within a week. Obviously I answer real questions, but when a young kid asks you why they are trying to argue with you or stall or both.

Not necessarily. Our son genuinely wanted to know why 95% of the time. Ok, the other 5% was reflex, but that I could deal with. I strongly disagree that they ask why to argue at this age. Maybe a few kids, but most are either using why to converse with you (and they haven't got very many tools to do that at 3), or the really want to know. Ignoring cuts off connection or curiosity.

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#25 of 27 Old 08-03-2011, 07:53 AM
 
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I don't know- when I read scottishmommy's reply about a week ago, I was like, yes!  I'll ignore the whys.  I figured someone would respond with the whole "don't ever ignore your kids" things, but quite honestly, the ignoring has worked well since I started it. 

 

Just to clarify: DD is almost 3.  She's been asking why more and more frequently, it started maybe 6 months ago.  She asks "why" about things that she legitimately doesn't know, and I do still answer those.  But most of her "why" questions are things she does know the answer to.  I think a lot of the reason for this is because she doesn't know other ways to carry on conversations, but I do think sometimes there's a contrary-ness to the "why." 

 

Anyway, I don't ignore HER.  And I don't think that that is what scottishmommy meant.  I ignore the "why."  So, for example, if she's like "Why is Grandpa in Denver?"- she knows the answer to this.  We've talked about it 500 times.  So I'll ignore the question and instead redirect her, for example, by asking, "What do you think Grandpa is doing right now in Denver?" 

 

I've only been doing this for about a week, like I said, but I feel like it's working by:

-reducing the number of why questions

-improving her conversational skills

-improving my frustration level with her, and hers with me

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#26 of 27 Old 08-06-2011, 12:25 AM
 
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Originally Posted by OkiMom View Post

My 4 year old does this and "whats after that" all day long. Her 2 year old sister has picked up on it. Ive started to loose it a little with them (lack of sleep can do that to you) so I started turning it back on them. Example:

Me: DD get your shoes on

DD: Why?

Me: Because we are leaving

DD: Why?

I stop it there because I know it just keeps going so I respond with "Why do you think we are leaving?"

 

The Whats after that thing is driving me even more nutty though. Its like she wants a run down of every little thing we are doing that day and doesn't like it if I don't tell her every little thing. Today she got upset because I changed the baby's diaper BEFORE breakfast instead of AFTER. Im thinking of making her a schedule chart so she can see what we are doing and in what order.

 

I keep telling myself that I rather she ask 100 questions then never ask 1. Some days I believe it shy.gif


oh goodness gracious; this is our house too! i'm jokingly hoping that dd3 never starts talking so I don't get it from all three of them!
after having gone through the whole why conversation/cycle with the 4 year old, then the 2 year old does it over again! no wonder i'm losing my frickin' mind!
some things we've done include
- asking her why
- getting existential/philosophical
- replying in circles (ie. when will daddy be back? in 15 minutes. when is 15 minutes. when daddy gets back)
- responding with obviously silly answers (for when she's asking why out of habit/reflex) (ie. where's the milk? on the moon.)

a lot of days it drives me bonkers; I don't want to discourage her curiosity but i'm rapidly losing patience with this scenario. it will e interesting to see what happens when she starts school in September!

wife to dh, mama to dd1   june 2007, dd2 march 2009 and dd3 april 2011
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#27 of 27 Old 08-07-2011, 08:53 PM
 
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Originally Posted by LynnS6 View Post

Quote:
Originally Posted by scottishmommy View Post

DD went through this phase and I just started ignoring her. She stopped within a week. Obviously I answer real questions, but when a young kid asks you why they are trying to argue with you or stall or both.

Not necessarily. Our son genuinely wanted to know why 95% of the time. Ok, the other 5% was reflex, but that I could deal with. I strongly disagree that they ask why to argue at this age. Maybe a few kids, but most are either using why to converse with you (and they haven't got very many tools to do that at 3), or the really want to know. Ignoring cuts off connection or curiosity.

Just to clarify, I only ignore why's when they are clearly intended for contrary purposes. This usually involves asking DD to do something she doesn't want to do, but is part of out everyday routine, like brushing teeth, or sitting down for dinner. And generally I dont actually ignore her, but rather pretend I didnt hear her and change the subject. If she was truly curious about something, I'd answer, but most of the time she's just stalling.

Wife to amazing dh, mama to dd 12/08
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