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October 01, 2003

Why? Why? WHY????

Dear Lord,
Please give me the strength to not harm my child, who has apparently just entered into the "Why Stage" of life? Every statement of mine is met with a quick "Why?" from her, and it is about to drive me nuts.

It just happened a few days ago, but I don't see any signs that it is about to end soon. My little girl (2 and a half) has just started saying, "Why?," to everything I say to her. I know all kids go through this, but I don't care about all kids, only this one. It isn't so annoying when it is someone else's child, but when it is your own, you can't get away from it, and there isn't enough beer available to wash away the problem. Life was so much simpler when she hadn't yet acquired the skill of speech.

I finally reach the point where I tell her that I can no longer answer her "Why" questions. The other day I tried to give her some of her own medicine and respond with a "Why?" to whatever she said. I realize it isn't the most mature response, but I had reached my limit. Finally, she stopped and said, "Dad, I can no longer answer your 'Why' questions." Not surprisingly, she now hits this response much quicker than I do. You know you are in trouble when your little one becomes smarter than you. I just figured I had another 18 or so years before this happened. Apparently, not.

Posted by Woundwort at October 1, 2003 05:20 PM | TrackBack
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Because I said so.

Posted by: Kevin at October 1, 2003 05:30 PM


Where do babies come from?

Posted by: Kyle at October 1, 2003 06:53 PM

Are we there yet?

Posted by: Woundwort at October 1, 2003 09:06 PM

She's just fact-checking your ass...

Posted by: Misanthropyst at October 1, 2003 10:05 PM

My Godson did this with me when he was about three, and it led to a discovery that has, so far, worked on other "whying" children. I answered his questions in a very serious, long-winded, excruciatingly exact monologue, with as many polysyllabic words and technical terms as I could (un)reasonably cram into verbose, run-on sentences. It so sorely tried his miniscule attention span, he abandoned the why's (and me) to go sit with his mom. And this with him desperate to open someone else's birthday presents. Worked like a charm for me, YRMV.

Posted by: tmid at October 2, 2003 01:48 AM

I can sympathize. The "whys" are a very trying time. I also had success with the longwinded, detailed answer with my oldest. Our second is tougher though - he likes it when I do that. He sits there and nods, looking important like he's a big grown up in a grown up conversation. I had to switch (and quickly, as the longwind response was actually driving additional why questions) to the Socratic method. When he asks me a why question now I'll ask him a question back, one that leads him to the answer. If it's something he was actually interested in he'll eventually figure it out with the help of the leading questions. If it's the far more common why question that is simply an automatic response to any silent period longer than 5 seconds he'll drop it.

Posted by: Jim at October 2, 2003 06:17 AM

"I don't see any signs that it is about to end"

What makes you think it ever ends?

Posted by: Rita at October 2, 2003 06:53 AM

When it is your own child, you cannot avoid it. You can minimize sometimes with some of the tricks mentioned here, but eventually, the why comes back. Our son is three and-a-half and in full WhyMode™ right now.

Posted by: Michael at October 2, 2003 12:04 PM

I'm thinking of just saying, "Shut up, you are bugging the shit out of me!!!," and seeing what happens. Might be causing more problems than I'm solving, but it would make for a good story. More blog fodder.

Posted by: Woundwort at October 2, 2003 12:09 PM


1. Because...
2. For the reason that...
3. If not, then...
4. Well, wouldn't you...?


5. on, Why not?

Only 4 coins are in the purse child, spend wisely.

Posted by: Stephen at October 2, 2003 01:45 PM

From parenting books I got this technique: don't answer the "why". Instead, ask them what do they want to know more about, the ____ or the ____ or something else? Get them to refine the question, and sometimes it changes their focus.

Posted by: Kris Hasson-Jones at October 2, 2003 03:22 PM

So, spanking them until they cry and saying, "If you don't stop, I'm going to really give you something to cry about" is not an effective way to handle this?

Posted by: Woundwort at October 2, 2003 04:14 PM

wherin the y-ness of the y equals the because-ness of the because and remains thus forever constant

This stuff actually becomes cute in hindsight when they begin to prepubesce and grow little spots, horns and MOODs. Now any response to our eleven year-old's perpetual challenge is followed with:

"that is soooo old/lame/stupid/boring/weird/UNFAIRRRR"

the classic "TH'UUUH!" follwed with "eyeroll" and "slouching away"

Now my husband and I are both thinking it may be a law of nature for us as parents to continue to lose the spirit of these battles until sometime after our kids have children of their own.

Perhaps then the long awaited accedence will be ours, stunning in it's beauty and wearing that oh-god-why shoe on the other foot. ;)

Posted by: Deb at October 3, 2003 10:50 AM

These answers are classically priceless! Wish I had thought of some of them (especially tmid's and Jim's) when I had "why-ers".

Posted by: Indigo at October 3, 2003 06:12 PM

But, the *great* thing is if you're paying attention and lucky, "no" has disappeared. "No" turns into "why" pretty much directly; if it hasn't happened yet, it will soon. Give me "why" over "no" any day.

In addition to the long-winded response, I like steering my three-and-a-half year-old into circular questions. Like when thet companion asked the Doctor, "Why is the TARDIS bigger on the inside than the outside?" The Doctor replied, "Because it's Dimensionally Transcendant." The Companion asked, "What does that mean?" Answer: "It's bigger on the inside than the outside." A three-year-old will then ask, "Why," and you can reply, "Because it's Dimensionally Transcendant."

Really I think for them "why" is shorthand for "I find this really interesting and would like you to talk about it some more." It's a great opportunity to practice being a politician and not answer the literal question "why" but just ramble on the topic some more. I'll often tell my son, when he asks me something like "Why is that a ceiling fan," "That's not a meaningful question." He'll sometimes ask something more useful, like "Why is there a ceiling fan there?" and sometimes just say, "Tell me more about ceiling fans."

My favorite "why," though, was when he looked at me, and said, "Daddy, why do I have nipples?"

I looked him straight in the eye, and said, "Son, nobody knows the answer to that question."

Posted by: Brett A. Thomas at October 6, 2003 10:46 PM
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