How to Respond to the Why Question

My 2-year-old daughter often asks why. At first, she would ask, "Why?" in response to something I said.

  • "It’s raining outside." Why?
  • "Mama is going to work this evening." Why?
  • "We’re going to the toy store." Why?

Sometimes she genuinely seemed curious, but other times her questioning
didn’t make sense. Are you seriously asking why we’re going to the toy
store? Hey kid, you LOVE going to the toy store. Don’t push your luck.

Now she asks why I do certain things.

  • "Why did you turn on the light?"
  • "Why did you put the popcorn in the microwave?"
  • "Why are you drinking orange juice?"

When she gets into W Mode, the questions come fast and furious.
Thankfully, I have devised a secret weapon, a weapon so cunningly
simple I’m sure other parents must use it in their own homes. If not,
I’ll patent the idea and earn an easy million selling a one page
parenting book.

This weapon is a question. The interrogator becomes the interrogated.
It is foolproof. It knows no defeat. It can be deployed for every why
question fired. I simply ask my daughter, "Why do you think?"

  • Why do you think I turned on the light?
  • Why did you think I put the popcorn in the microwave?
  • Why do you think I am drinking orange juice?

Her answers reveal the inner workings of her mind. On rare occasions,
she asks in order to understand the nature of the universe. However,
most of the time she is not truly asking a question. She knows all the

She talks about what she sees happening around her as a means of
conversation. She begins a sentence with the word "why" when she is
seeking interaction with me, a way of starting or continuing a
conversation. She just wants my attention.

Whoah. How can I let "Why?"
ever get on my nerves again? I can deflect her questions back at her, or simply change the subject and talk about anything at all. She’s just happy to be talking with me.


3 Responses to “How to Respond to the Why Question”

  1. Carrie says:

    Great post. Good to be reminded that our kids really aren’t TRYING to make us crazy. They’re really just trying to connect with us. Thanks!

    January 31st, 2007 at 1:14 am

  2. STL Mom says:

    Oh, I don’t know. Sometimes they might be trying to make us crazy. Because it can be interesting to make mommy scream, “I don’t KNOW why! Now can I please have some peace and quiet for once while I go to the bathroom!” and then watch her face turn purple when you respond, “Why?”

    January 31st, 2007 at 11:16 am

  3. Carol says:

    That works well. As does, “Because there’s a big wall in China.” My own personal fav :)

    February 2nd, 2007 at 8:36 pm

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