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Why? But Why?

April 15, 1995

When a child is told to do something that he doesn’t want to do, he will often ask, “Why?” It most cases the question is not prompted by a spirit of cooperative inquiry — it is prompted by a spirit of rebellion.

The question is thrown at the parent as a challenge to his or her authority, wisdom, and motive. The child’s question is actually a statement of defiance. The wise parent will know that the character of the child is better served if the question is left unanswered. The child should trust the wisdom and good intentions of the parent.

The issue is not a deficit of information but a deficit of character. The child who is perfectly compliant in spirit doesn’t need explanations. Yet, in some cases, he may delight in knowing why because he enjoys playing his part in the scheme of things. Be sensitive.

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5 comments on “Why? But Why?”

  1. Having two little ones asking ‘why’ umpteenth times daily, I can attest to this article. Very, very true. And the real ‘trick’ is to discern between genuine want to know and a defiant spirit ! One has to think on your feet there and then while being busy with lots of things, so it is quite some challenge.

  2. Amanda, why not answer them? There’s a novel idea. Allow your little one to think and learn. For example, when you say “don’t touch the fire” and your little on says “why?” don’t hit them with a stick for there defiance, tell them “because it’s hot”. See how it works?