Sometimes they are just curious. This is our opportunity to teach them new things. At other times, they are troubled by something. This is our chance to help them deal with whatever is bothering them. I will write more about these kinds of ‘whys’ in the future.
This post is concerned with another type of ‘why’- the type that masquerades as a request for information, but in fact is a negotiation technique. Or delaying tactic. Or a distraction. And often it works.
‘Can you please pick up your coat off the floor?’
‘Please tidy up your room’
‘Why? I don’t mind the mess and it is MY room’
‘Can you help me clear the table?’
‘Why do you always ask ME? Why don’t you ask HER?’
Usually, when parents hear a ‘why’ they explain their reasons. And sure enough, another ‘why’ follows. And another one. And yet another one after that. After a few attempts, the exhausted parent either gives in or demands obedience: ‘You will do it because I say so!’
Nine times out of ten your children know the answers to their why questions. They know because you explained your reasons many times before. I have yet to see a child thanking his parents for the information and rushing to do what he is asked.
So instead of replying to the whys, you can ask questions of your own. And you may end up having a conversation like the one I had with my teenager niece, who was walking skilfully with her two long shoelaces undone, flying from one side to the other.
‘Inbal, could you please tie your shoelaces?
‘Are you asking because you want to know my reasons or because you want to tell me that don’t want to do it?’
‘I don’t want to do it’.
‘So why are you asking me why then?’
‘I like to argue’.
Next time your kids ask this kind of ‘why’, try asking them the same question. You may get an interesting reply – I’d love to hear what it is.