When Children Do Not Need to Know “Why?”

know why

To know or not TO know

Our children are inquisitive. They want to learn and they want to know Why. It’s normal and natural for them to ask questions and to ask Why.

As much as possible, we should answer their questions when they ask. Sometimes we need to wait to answer until a more appropriate time.

Unless the information is private, is embarrassing to those around, or is information that should be discussed in private, we should answer Why. In those times when it is not appropriate to answer in the moment, we can assure our children we will explain later when we are home alone. Of course, when we are home and alone, we must keep that promise.

Asking “why” to delay obedience

There are times, however, when our children ask “Why”, not because they don’t understand, but because they do not want to obey. Asking Why gives them time and opportunity to question our reasoning. If they can get us distracted by asking Why and arguing with our reasoning, they may succeed in disobedience. You can be sure I know what I’m talking about!

It’s not that they don’t understand Why they must pick up the toys now, or Why you are not allowing them to participate in a social event, the issue is that they don’t want to pick up their toys. Older kids usually question our decision to test our reasoning in hopes they can change our minds. They want to know if we have a strong reason or merely a decision out of convenience. We should give an explanation, but we do not need to keep repeating the explanation!

When they don’t need to know “why” now

Do our children really need to know Why they have to go to bed when their older siblings are allowed to stay up? Do they really need to know Why we want them to pick up their toys now? Can they obey first and find out Why later? That’s the key.

When a child is being defiant, he does not need to know Why now. He doesn’t need to know, because he already knows. He just wants to argue and make life miserable for others.

There were days in our house when I’d tell one of mine, “I’ll explain Why tomorrow; but today, you just need to obey.” [And yes, I followed through and explained Why tomorrow (although he usually already knew).]

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Those were the times my kids already knew Why. They just wanted to argue and get my focus off the task at hand, hoping to beat me to the draw. Those are the times your kid can wait to learn the reason Why. He can find out tomorrow.

The bottom line: Curiosity or defiance?

When your child asks Why, ask yourself if he is asking out of true curiosity or out of defiance. Once you answer that question, you’ll know what to do.

Remember your child does not always need to know Why now. He can wait until tomorrow. Helping him understand this principle teaches him to obey even when he does not agree. It also teaches him to respect and submit to authority, something he will need to be able to do the rest of his life.

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