The children's whys phase: when it is, how to deal with it and how to respond

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Why is the sun yellow and the sky blue? Why does the cat meow and the dog woof? And we could, or rather, the children could go on like this for hours. Around the age of two or three they enter the phase of why, the one in which for fun or curiosity every adult in the neighborhood is targeted and subjected to an endless barrage of chained questions, worthy of the best TV quiz shows. Michela Garbosa, developmental and family psychologist, explains how to survive this phase and avoid having to buy an encyclopedia to be able to keep up with our children.

Phase of why: when and how

“The whys phase depends on language development and, consequently, it varies a great deal from child to child. In a very general way we could say that it occurs between two and three years, therefore, from the end of the last year of the nest, and can also continue up to seven or eight years - explains Dr. Garbosa -. In addition to age and development, however, also the character: it is true that the properties of language and the ability to understand must be quite strong, but at least in the first phase, reference is made above all to the relationship with adults. This means that the child must already be quite advanced with language skills, but must also be led to interact continuously and so strongly with an adult, something that a more shy, thoughtful or introjective child may do more difficult. Ideally we could divide the whys phase in two: the first goes from two or three years, in fact, up to five or six. In this period it is the adult who is the only reference for the little one. From about six years of age, with the discovery of writing and reading and the beginning of school, the "victim" of whys could also become the older brother or cousin: the child also wants to interact with his peers or similar. -even".

If the why phase does not occur

What if your baby is fully within this age range, but has never asked you for any explanation? “Don't worry if this phase doesn't reveal itself or lasts very little. Not all children go through it by force or they do it in the same way. With children there is no security: it is a bit like crawling, there are those who do it and those who start walking directly, but crawling or not does not compromise the ability to learn to walk. There phase of why it does not concern linguistic development and does not compromise it ».

Read also: Baby's speech development from 1 month to 3 years

Why and why?

«This phase is related to the natural curiosity of the little ones: they see the black clouds of the storm approaching and ask what is happening. It is a curiosity about new or misunderstood stimuli».

However, the psychologist also confirms what many mothers and fathers have already guessed: "Sometimes all these questions are more way to attract attention, especially when they are chained together. The end is no longer the answer, but the interaction itself. A little as if the child said to himself "if the big one can keep up with me, then I am able to interact with him". This need for attention occurs above all when the children are still small, in fact, the more they grow, the more their questions are the fruit of real interest, this means that they will be satisfied even less and less with summary answers ».

How many questions to answer?

Let's face it, the first questions that are asked to adults, with eyes full of amazement and that make us see the world with different and new eyes are wonderful. At number 3.479, after a hard day's work, this is not necessarily the case yet. The expert reassures: «It is absolutely normal that, at some point, the patience run out and that we look for ways to safeguard our psycho-physical survival as well. Undoubtedly it is right satisfy the curiosity of children, but it is not necessary to overcome one's level of tolerance, which will be different from day to day ».

When it is right to give a limit

If the phase of why not only affects mum, dad, grandparents or the adults of reference, but any adult you meet on the street or in the park, however, it is right to contain: "Let's remember that it is a phase that will pass and that must be supported, but it is also right to set limits. The ideal is to explain to the little one that it is very nice to be curious, but that the grandfather met at the park or the cashier at the supermarket is working or perhaps has others because of other children to answer ".

Read also: Children's education: 15 valid alternatives to spanking

End Questions: Four Plus One Ways

According to the psychologist, when you just can't take it anymore, it absolutely is It is permissible to attempt to break the chain. The ways it suggests are:

  1. Distract the child;
  2. Propose something new to focus attention on;
  3. Reverse the situation and ask the child why or according to him / her what is happening, involving the child in an attempt to respond, especially if you do not want to break the interaction that is being built at that moment;
  4. Put a stop to it, explaining that now is the time to go to dinner or that it is time to stop asking questions, but that it could be resumed tomorrow or in the afternoon or at any other time.

These ideas are especially valid for younger children. With those larger - starting from elementary school - they could be ineffective. “Up to about five or six, children are not interested in a technical explanation. When they begin to have access to technology, to go to school, perhaps even already knowing how to read and write, instead, curiosity must be satisfied in a different way. Maybe they could get involved in a little research so that they themselves give an answer to their doubts ». In any case, the doctor reassured, "even telling the child to ask his father or grandmother or another adult is fine: we are human and we can be tired of answering".

How to answer questions

Whether telling the truth, sweetening reality or giving a false answer depends, in this case too, a lot on age: "Before the age of five basically it is better to give one playful, fascinating answer. At this age children still do not think on the basis of logic and rationality, their mental categories are based on fantasy and play. It would be useless to fill them with information that is too technical, logical or rational: they do not know how to explain it. Returning to the example of the storm, maybe it is enough to say that they are the angels who play bowls, as they used to do in the past. In this type of response, of course, the ideologies and beliefs of the parents will come into play ».

In a second phase, more or less from five years onwards, uncomfortable questions may also begin to arrive, on great existential issues. “At this moment, give simple answers: for example, explain that the grandfather who passed away is on a star, it may not be enough and the children may guess that you are not telling them the truth. In this case it is necessary answer as exactly as possible».

How to survive the whys: the mantra to be repeated

«The best way to face this period is with patience, listening and, above all, with the awareness that it is a phase: it will pass. You have to repeat it like a mantra, especially if our child is experiencing it in a very accentuated way, there is no need to worry. The phase of why will pass ».

Updated on 15.02.2022

  • language development
  • curiosity
  • psyche
  • advice to parents
  • because children
  • 3-5 children years
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