Why Kids Ask Why (and How to Respond Lovingly)

Jen Wilkin | January 9, 2017

Don’t wait for answers. Just take your chances. Don’t ask me why. — Billy Joel

Small children entrust their parents with all manner of questions. For the most part, we parents consider it a privilege to supply answers, but then there are days the “why’s” won’t stop. As much as we want to help our kids learn and grow, incessant “why’s” can wear on even the most enthusiastic parent, causing us to ask one of our own: Why is this tiny person pushing me to the brink of sanity with endless questions?

It’s important for parents to discern the underlying reason a small child asks “why” if we’re to give a loving and appropriate response. In our experience with our own kids, Jeff and I distinguished three types of “Why’s” in the small child’s vocabulary: the Curious Why, the Social Why, and the Defiant Why. Failure to distinguish between them is a surefire invitation for parental insanity to ensue. Identifying them correctly, however, helps us know how and when to respond, ensuring that we neither shut down honest questions nor entertain unproductive ones. 

1. The Curious Why

The most straightforward (and therefore pleasant) of the category, the Curious Why is offered for the sole purpose of achieving better…

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