When used in question form during an adult conversation, why becomes a fairly direct means to an end. But coming from a toddler repeatedly peppering you with that singular word, it can become maddening — like Chinese water torture.
Why? Why? Why?
Now that my son Justice is three and a half, I can barely get an answer out before he hits me with the next why. I always promised myself to judiciously use "because I said so" due to the fact I hated that response from my parents as a child.
But man, it is really hard.
However, as I have discovered during the last few years, parenting is a seemingly never-ending series of difficult decisions. And the easy way out is just that. I simply could say "because I said so," but that does my son a disservice. And I'm not good with guilt.
I try to patiently answer his whys the best I can. Occasionally, he paints me into a corner with a why that has no answer, but those times are infrequent. I typically try to take him step-by-step through the logic behind his questions and my answers.
Is that asking too much of a toddler? Maybe. I'm not naïve enough to think he picks it all up, but I do feel this approach has begun to sow the seeds of critical thinking. I definitely notice a heightened sense of cause and effect with Justice as compared to other kids his age.
I have friends who disagree. They tell me the influx of whys is simply a way of getting my attention, similar to when a child defiantly retorts with no.
My response: I want him to always feel like he can get my attention.
But even if they are right, I'm okay with that. Ultimately, I'm stretching out our conversations talk and letting his mind extend.
He may hit me with a few whys, but at some point, I am going to ask him what he thinks of the situation in question.
What starts as a potentially frustrating incident can blossom into a revealing conversation. Now I've turned the tables. Listening to the explanations of a toddler's expanding mind can be fascinating.
And pretty entertaining.
So next time you think you can't take another why from your toddler, relax, take a deep breath and make a potentially torturous moment a teachable one. You'll really enjoy the results.
And hey, why not?
Brandon Wright is a married father of a toddler who lives in Seffner.