Toddlers and the "Why" Stage

Invariably, all toddlers go through a phase where they start to ask that dreaded “why” question – or at least a variation of it.  Gavin’s is “how come?”  For instance:

Gavin: What did the Fat Controller say?
Me: He sent Thomas to the workshop.
Gavin: How come?
Me: Because Thomas ran off the rails and got injured.
Gavin: How come?
Me: Because Thomas was rushing around the bend too quickly.
Gavin: How come?

You get the drift…

As annoying as it may be to have to answer question after question of “whys”, I’ve been told that it is good to encourage such questions from your child.  I think I heard it and read about it, but I can’t remember the sources, that several intellectually advanced individuals were raised by mothers who made it their task to answer and explain all those dreaded “whys” while their  children were young.

In a way, it makes sense.  A child who asks “why” is curious and attempting to fill the gaps in their knowledge – usually.  A parent who attempts to answer all those “whys” is encouraging that curiosity which will later translate to a instinctive drive to learn more about subjects that the child does not understand.

Though it is often tempting to tell you child to stop asking such unnecessary questions – for unnecessary it may sometimes appear – it will seem to your child that you are indirectly telling him to stop being curious.  In other words, you would be putting a damper on his learning spirit.

So as much as I find it annoying at times, I try very hard not to discourage Gavin from asking why.  On occasion when I think he’s asking “why” for the sake of asking, I’ll turn the question around on him and ask him why.  For instance, sometimes he’ll ask me about what is happening in an audio story that we’re listening to in the car.  Since I know he’s been listening and that he should know the answer himself, I’ll turn the question back to him and ask him why he thinks x-y-z happened.


Published by Shen-Li

SHEN-LI LEE is the author of “Brainchild: Secrets to Unlocking Your Child’s Potential”. She is also the founder of (a website on parenting, education, child development) and (a website on Right Brain Education, cognitive development, and maximising potentials). In her spare time, she blogs on Forty, Fit & Fed, and Back to Basics.

2 thoughts on “Toddlers and the "Why" Stage

  1. Yeah… Sometimes I have to take a deep breath before I continue because I’m just that close to telling him where he can take his “whys” because I’ve run out of patience to deal with them.

    Nobody said it was easy raising a child… What more more than one child!


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