I recently read an article claiming that moms are asked, on average, 23 questions per hour by their preschool aged children, (or about 300 per day if you’re staying home)! As the mom of a three and half year old wonderfully curious chatterbox, this number didn’t seem too far fetched! I know the insatiable appetite for knowledge my daughter has, and while it’s hard to give enthusiastic answers after 5 pm (somewhere around question #227?), I know that her little sponge of a brain and big desire to learn are characteristics I should be building on!
When the “Why?” stage started with my daughter, it was clear she actually DID have a genuine interest in the original question or topic, and that she wanted to learn more about it, but she didn’t necessarily know how to keep the conversation going, or how to contribute to the topic other than asking “why” over and over and over again! I learned that by answering her original question, and following up with a question of my own on the same topic, kept our conversation going and encouraged her to think about the subject for herself. It also allowed me to model how to ask meaningful questions. She surprised me with how well she was able to come up with possible answers and ideas! Even if her answer made very little sense, it gave me a chance to encourage her creative thinking, and to suggest other ideas. I definitely attribute how quickly the “why why why” questions subsided to this tactic!
Encouraging and praising her meaningful question asking has really helped her conversation skills. In the same way, I try to make a habit of regularly asking her meaningful questions. Here are a few questions I’ve tried to make a habit of asking her at least weekly!
1. What (person/place/thing) would you like to learn more about?
By giving my daughter control over the subjects we dive into, she is much more invested in the process. For example, when Daniel Tiger performed in The Nutcracker, she went into full on Sugar Plum Fairy mode. When I asked her what she would like to learn about that week, she was all about ballet! We used that interest in all areas of play. She dressed up like a ballerina, checked out some children’s books on ballet, learned some of the vocabulary, we watched professional ballet performances on youtube, and even tried our hands at some of the dance moves. We were able to take her interest in The Nutcracker (Thanks Daniel Tiger!) and apply it in so many different areas of learning without her feeling bored or uninterested in any of them.
2. What can we do to show kindness to (our family/friend/neighbor) today?
I love this question, and I love to ask it daily. It can be something as small as drawing pictures for family members or making cookies for our family to enjoy after dinner, but it always has a big impact. She is continually mindful of ways to encourage others, and is always so excited to find opportunities to show kindness.
3. How does that make (you/him/her) feel?
This question is one that I am given the opportunity to ask multiple times per day. Little people have some of the biggest feelings! (Just ask a toddler who wanted their grilled cheese cut into triangles but has just been served 4 tiny squares!) Asking my toddler to expand on her emotions, no matter how silly they may seem, really helps to diffuse tense situations. Even if I don’t agree with her response, validating her feelings and asking her more questions about how she is feeling in a calm way puts us on the same team, and we are able to resolve conflict quickly (most of the time!). In the same way, when she says or does something hurtful- or kind- to someone (or even our dog), one of the best responses I have come up with is asking her how she thinks the other person may feel as a result. This usually leads to a conversation giving her a better understanding of how her actions affect others.
4. What do you like best about yourself/your friend/your family?
I love to direct her thoughts to what makes her and others special. As toddlers, and especially as a little girl, most of the compliments my daughter receives are about her appearance: her pretty eyes, her cute outfit, or her curly hair. It’s so important to me to turn her attention to the condition of her heart and other wonderful qualities she and others have to offer.
5. What was the best part about your day?
This one is a great dinner table or bedtime question. I always love to hear her recount the best parts of her day. Sometimes it’s totally predictable, but oftentimes, she will recall a tiny detail or phrase that my husband or I have said to her. Hearing how meaningful the little things are to her every night gives me the best motivation to put more effort into the mundane the next day.
What questions would you add to the list? Do you have any tips for getting through the “Why” phase of parenting?