“Bakit ganun?” and “Why, mama?” are questions a lot of Pinoy parents with toddlers hear many times every day. It can test a parent’s patience, and it's why mom and dad sometimes can't stop themselves from replying, “Kasi ganun eh.” And we proceed to feel guilty because we know that asking a hundred questions a day is a good sign! Our little one’s developing mind is growing and expanding.
“Your toddler is curious about the world and wants to learn. And she's starting to understand cause and effect, or the idea that there's a reason for almost everything,” explained child psychologist Richard Gilham, associate fellow of the British Psychological Society, in a column for BabyCentre U.K.
As tempting as it is to say, “That's just the way it is,” a lifelong love of learning starts with encouragement and support from mom and dad. “Ignoring the questions kids ask may stifle that curiosity and desire for knowledge, something you absolutely don't want to do,” said Heidi Murkoff, author of the What to Expect When You're Expecting series.
Rebecca A. Palacios, Ph.D., an expert in early childhood education, also explained that a child’s inquisitiveness boosts learning in many areas. “Their curiosity about the world around them helps to build concepts, skills, vocabulary, and understanding of the unknown. And you can help channel their curiosity and need to know why so that you help foster learning in a positive way,” she wrote in an article for the Huffington Post.
So, how do you answer questions when you feel like you’ve had enough? Here are some tips: 1. Don't overcomplicate things The trick is to think simple and straightforward. Say your child is asking you why the family cat has fur, said Dr. Palacios. “Your response can be brief and factual: ‘The cat has fur to keep warm. Almost all cats have fur.’ This is a fully sufficient answer that will help your child learn about the world.”
2. Merely engaging can already answer the question A toddler who keeps asking “why?” often wants to engage and connect with her parents. Renowned physician and author Dr. Alan Greene put it this way, “What they really mean is, ‘That’s interesting to me. Let’s talk about that together. Tell me more, please?’... They don’t need to know why, all they need is animated attention and [you] saying whatever came to mind about that subject.”
As an example, here is what Dr. Greene answered when his son asked him why the sky was blue: “I told him that on sunny days the sky was blue and that on cloudy days it was gray and that at night it was very, very dark. Sometimes in-between day and night, it’s a pretty pink or orange. And there are cool things in the sky. The sun gives us heat and light. It’s like the stars, only closer.”
Dr. Greene points out, “Notice that I didn’t at all answer why the sky is blue, but I did connect with him and answer his real question.” Nonetheless, his son had been pleased with the dad’s reply.
3. Throw the question back After a long day, sometimes, you simply don’t have the energy to think of a reply for your tot anymore. At times like this, you can give yourself a break and throw her question back to her. See what your child thinks, and her thoughtful or witty answer might just surprise you! “Curious children who love asking questions might also love coming up with answers,” said Murkoff.
The goal is to connect with your little one. “If you want your child to come to you when they are tweens and teens, lay the groundwork now. You want to give your child the message that no question is off the table,” Judy Arnall, a parenting expert and author of Discipline Without Distress and Plugged-In Parenting, told Today's Parent.