There is a student here at this school and he LOVES to ask “Why?” The teachers joke that he could ask that all day long.
I remember my mom telling me about when my oldest brother was little. They were driving down the road and there was a man carrying his bicycle. In one hand he had one of the tires, in the other hand he had the other tire connected to the rest of the bike. My brother saw the man and the following conversation ensued:
Brother: What is that man doing?
Mom: I think he’s carrying his bike to be fixed.
Mom: It looks like one of his tires is flat.
Mom: Maybe he rode over something sharp.
Mom: Maybe it was something so small and he couldn’t see it, or maybe he ran over something sharp because he wasn’t paying attention.
Mom: He could have been looking ahead to see if the light was green or red instead of looking at the ground.
Mom: He would have been looking at the streetlight so he could tell if he could go through the light or if he needed to stop.
And so forth.
I’m sure many of you have had similar conversations. While it may feel frustrating to you, children are just trying to figure out the world and how it works.
As an extension of this idea I find that kids like to know the reasons for doing things. In my experience as a teacher I have had greater success when asking students to do something when I tell then the reason behind the request. When I walk my classes down the school halls they sometimes get noisier than I like. If I say, “Our line is too loud, please turn your voices down/off” the line would get slightly quieter. I would have greater success when I would say, “Our line is getting noisy. I see that some of the classroom doors are open. If we keep talking we are going to disturb other classes who are learning. Please stop talking in line.”
There are countless examples I could give from the view of a teacher, but this also works at home with your kiddos. Instead of saying, “Get out of the street!” you might try, “the street is for cars and bikes and the side walk is for people. If you stay in the street you could get hit by a car or bike and it could hurt you really bad. That would make me fell so sad. Please walk on the sidewalk where you will be more safe”.
I feel like it is easy to assume that kids can draw conclusions about why we are asking things, but that is rarely the case. Until about 8 years old kids brains are not yet wired to think abstractly.
So next time a child asks you “why?” over and over and over…. Remember that they aren’t intentionally driving you crazy—they’re figuring out the way the world works. And who knows, maybe as we think about why people are doing things more consciously we may be a little more understanding and patient with others who think differently than we do.