Young children are
natural learners and great observers of the here and now. They
constantly try to gather information about what goes on around them,
and that means they ask many questions and talk a lot:
“Who’s that?” “Why is she doing that?” “Where is that truck going?”
Since a child believes that adults know everything, she assumes that
her parents will have the answer to each question. She also assumes
that everything has a purpose that can be discovered just by asking:
“Why is that man so tall?”
Sometimes she uses questions to relieve her anxieties. She may ask,
“Why is that dog barking?” because she’s afraid of the animal. At
other times, she might ask a stream of questions or talk on and on
just to be sociable and stay in constant contact with her parents.
Many times, as soon as parents have answered their child’s question,
she asks the same question again, or follows their explanation with
an immediate, “Why?” This can be annoying because parents feel
they’re constantly replying to their child. At times it’s hard to
know what she wants, since she’s often not satisfied by the
explanations she receives. If parents 4 her before they offer a
complex answer, they may gain some insight into her real needs:
“What do you think that word means?” “Tell me why you think that man
Sometimes she repeatedly asks “why” and rejects an answer because
she doesn’t understand it. She may have difficulty absorbing facts
that aren’t familiar or that don’t relate directly to her
experience. That’s why parents should answer questions on a level
that’s appropriate for their child. And they should expect to hear
the same questions over and over because it takes time and
repetition before she masters complex information.
A child may occasionally ask a question that’s difficult to answer.
One four-year-old from a family with three children asked her
friend’s mother, “Why do you only have two kids?” The mother,
concerned that the child might be upset by an honest answer (two was
all she wanted), put the question back to the child, “Why do you
think I only have two children?” She replied, “Because you wanted
to,” and was satisfied.
A problem often arises when young children ask socially embarrassing
questions. You may be in a store with your child when she points to
someone and loudly asks, “Why is he so fat?” She has no
understanding of the man’s feelings and asks only because she’s
spontaneous and curious. Yet, you’ll naturally feel ashamed and
sorry. The best you can do at such moments is give her a brief,
quiet answer (“That’s just the way he looks.”), and then try to
distract her or promise to discuss the situation later in private.
When your child’s constant questions and general chatter bother you,
remember that you don’t have to be ready to respond at all times.
You can acknowledge her talk by nodding or saying, “I’m listening,”
or even, “Um hmm.” She will know you’re aware of her words and,
often, that will be enough to make her happy.