Why do birds build their nests in trees?
Why should we always tell the truth?
Why do I have to?
Why is the grass green?
Why can’t I?
Why should we obey the park rules?
Why are the men working on the road?
And the list goes on and on…..why? why? WHY? Do you have a child who asks ‘why’ all the time? It can be exhausting! One of my daughters was so talkative, I had to put boundaries on how many questions she could ask during a 20-minute car ride for fear my ears would fall off!
But are all ‘why’ questions the same? A closer examination reveals that they are not. ‘Why’ questions can be classified into three categories:
- The why of curiosity – Why do birds build their nests in trees? Why are the men working on the road? Why is the grass green?
- The why of comprehension – Why did you help the man in the wheelchair? Why should we always tell the truth? Why should we obey the park rules?
- The why of challenge – Why do I have to? Why can’t I? Why should I?
Understanding which category each question falls into will help us, as parents, know how to respond to our little question-asker.
We often see curiosity questions from preschoolers and early elementary age children, (although I recall my 13-year-old bombarding me with questions about what every button on the dashboard did the first time she got to ride in the front seat of our car!) These curiosity questions should be answered to the best of your ability. This ‘why’ is non-moral in nature.
Comprehension questions often intensify during the late elementary and middle school years. These questions are moral. Children are trying to figure out the reasons people do what they do. Parents should always answer these questions as well, directing their children back to biblical principle whenever possible. If you have been faithful in providing the ‘moral reason why’ throughout your training, your children may not ask a lot of comprehension questions because you’ve already been filling their moral warehouse from the beginning.
Finally, challenge questions can occur at any age. These questions are also moral in nature but in a negative way. The child is not asking a sincere question but rather is challenging his parent’s authority. These questions should not be answered. Rather, the child should be corrected for his rebellious attitude. Be warned: sometimes a child will ask what appears to be a comprehension question but with a challenging tone. When this occurs, you’ve got a wolf in sheep’s clothing – it’s not really a comprehension question at all but a challenge question and should be corrected.
‘Why’ questions from our children are inevitable but with a little thought on our part, we can determine which category they fall into and then know how to answer each one appropriately.
Luona Nightingale is a Contact Mom for Christian Family Heritage. She loves to help other moms by answering their questions and helping them implement the principles from Babywise and other Growing Families curricula. She and her husband Luke reside in upstate New York. They are the parents of four adult daughters.