Thursday, December 22, 2011


If you have kids you hear this a lot from their mouths. But my toddler says it more then the other two combined and multiplied by 100.

Originally I thought this simple question was a testament to her natural curiosity and an attempt to understand the world around her. A normal exchange in my house goes something like this:

She would ask "Can I have some candy?" and I would reply "No".
"Why," she would inquire. "Because it's almost dinner."
"Because we need to eat soon."
"Because if we don't eat we will be hungry."
"Because the human body needs food to work and if you don't get enough your tummy will growl and to say it needs more."
"Because it just does, ok?"

I try to nurture her curiosity and feed her ever growing little mind but I am starting to think her curiosity isn't the reason for the "Why". It's a sales tactic and a psychological attack.

You keep your prospect (aka victim) engaged long enough and they break down. Their defenses wear down and hopefully they give in even if it's just to get you to stop pitching to them. It's a toddler interrogation. And it's effective in my toddlers case about half the time.

Initially I would end up screaming "Because I said so" and she would bring out the lip and tears and I'd feel bad for crushing her fragile emotions over one simple inquiry... "Why" so I give in to make up for it.

Once I realized this word was just one more weapon in her manipulation arsenal I wanted to get even so I would answer her "Why" with my own "Why".  It became clear that this tactic wouldn't break her because she just kept asking "Why" and I couldn't turn it around. I think I am dealing with a superior intellect.

I attempted ignoring her but the incessant "Why" was like a hammer to my brain, pounding away at my self control until I would scream "Shut up!". Obviously a new method is needed.

So now I am trying a new plan of attack (or in my case defense). After the first "Why?" I give a full and simple explanation to the question. When the inevitable "Why?" comes I ask "Which part didint' you understand?". This gives her a chance to ask a specific question if this is really about learning for her and if she gives just another "Why?" I say "I already told you why and if you ask me why again you can sit in time out until you remember why."

I know I sound like a crappy parent threatening time out over this but it's maddening to hear her ask the same thing over and over and over. And if you think threatening to punish is bad you're going to think I am a real piece of work when I tell you that I actually do punish!

I have used time out, taken her favorite doll and taken her privileges (like tv or dessert) away. I don't care how terrible I sound. I don't want not explain things to her and I never wanted to be the "Because I said so" mom so this is  currently the compromise between the two extremes for me.

You may think this is a bad way to handle this and to that I can only ask "Why?".


  1. I turn it around on mine and ask, "Why do you want to know?" Whatever their answer is I reply, "Why?" Most of the time they get frustrated to which I gleefully reply, "Now you know how it feels!" :D

  2. I used to think that I would answer every "why?" with a full explanation... then I started nannying, and I have to admit, "because I said so" comes out of my mouth sometimes.

    One thing that I find works is if I have already explained why, and he asks again, I make him repeat my answer to me (for example, "so I don't get a boo-boo."). I'm going to try the "What part did you not understand?" tactic too now. Thanks!

    PS - I don't think your a bad parent at all for punishing for too many "why"s!