A Parenting Tip for Toddlers

My girlfriend is a Montessori teacher and she is continually supplying me with small bits of parenting wisdom – a kind, charitable neighbor leaving shreds of lettuce leaves on her patio for me, the boggled spring bunny.

Her most recent shred was not a leaf but an entire week’s worth of substance to chew on, and it was so practical and Eureka!ish that I needed to share with you right this moment.

If ever there were a phase of parenting that causes introverted parents to cringe in desperation, it is the “Why?” phase. Just last week, Bee and I were engrossed in a banter battle that would quickly consume the duration of our entire dinner:

Bee: Why do we mow grass?
Me: Because it gets too long.
Why does it get too long?
Because grass is a living thing; it grows and grows, like you and me.
Why does it grow?
Because it was created to!
Why was it created to?

And so, here is what my friend shares with me:

When a child asks “Why — ?” they actually mean “Tell me more about that.”

Bee didn’t want to know the philosophical inner workings of the universe; she just wanted to know more about grass. The trick is to get proactive – as soon as the first “Why” bomb is dropped, give a toddler your attention and explain everything you know about that particular subject.

I tested my friend’s theory yesterday and this is, no joke, what happened:

Bee: Why do we have to wear pants?
Me: Well, not everyone has to wear pants all the time. Sometimes we wear pants, other times we wear shorts, and sometimes skirts, but really we just have to be covered when we leave the house so we don’t get cold, or hot, or so we don’t sit in something that sticks to our skin, and also because we don’t live in a nudist colony, which is a place people don’t have to wear any clothes ever, ever, ever, unless they want to.
Bee: Whoa! I want to live in a noo-list codony!

And that was IT – she fluttered away to color in the other room. No more whys.

I was fascinated! I’ve been testing it on my friends’ kids, and it’s working like a charm so far. If you try it, let me know.

And toddler mamas/papas, I’d loooove to hear your tips, as well. Comment away!

  • WHOA. Genius! A little bit of effort up front makes everything so much easier…kind of like all of life, right?

  • I’m going to have to give this a try. We are right in the middle of this phase with our boy. It was cute at first, but now it’s starting to drive us crazy!

  • that. is. GENIUS! we are currently deep into the “dis?” phase, and I can feel “why?” right around the corner. thank you so much for sharing a tip to head it off at the pass!!

  • Love this Erin! Thanks!
    Best tip I have to share is one I read and totally works:
    It’s a trick to make a kid laugh when they are about to get tantrum-my. Assuming they aren’t doing anything you think is a huge NO this works like a charm because it totally relaxes the situation (& them…and me ;) so I’m super less annoyed and he’s often already laughing. A tickle goes a long way :)

    • HOLY moly I love this tip. Yes, yes, yes – genius! I’ve found that they key to a relaxed kid, for us at least, is a relaxed Mama. Seems like a no-brainer but is really hard to remember. ;) Thank you for this one!

  • I am going to try this at the first available opportunity… which shouldn’t take long, as all of my 3 year old’s questions are WHY these days anyway.

  • So interesting! This makes perfect sense to me.

    We’re in between “why” phases. My 4yo has moved on and my just-turned-2yo hasn’t started yet. I’ll have to keep this idea in my back pocket!

  • I never comment on blogs, but “noo-list codony” is to too stinkin’ cute!

  • that makes so much sense! of course children are just trying to feed their curiosity by asking “why?”! my son isn’t quite at that stage yet, but it won’t be long. glad to have this in my bag of tricks! thanks, erin.

  • After discovering by accident several months ago that over-explaining is the answer I do it all the time, 1) because it usually stops the why’s, and 2) because it often leads to fascinating observations by him in the future. I’ve also learned to use silly to head off a tantrum, and sometimes a quick puff of air in the face will stop crying. They’re like puzzle boxes at this age!

    • OMG the puff of air! We used to do this when Bee was a baby and I completely forgot! Ahhh, you are a genius. :)

  • Oh, I’ve done something right! Have done this since my kids was in the Why-age. But as they grow older the reaction changes… From getting them pleased with the reply to starting up interesting discussions on to “OK, OK, I’ve got it…” as they are in their teens!
    Another tip. My kids have never been affraid to go to sleep with the lights out. Because ghost and all other scary things disappear if your blow at them…

  • I don’t have a toddler, but I used to be one, so hopefully my comment matters :)

    I realized when interacting with toddlers you have to talk to them (almost) like adults. And they’re just naturally curious as you mentioned with Bee. I think you’re doing right feeding her the right information without it being watered down and age appropriate.

    Also? Noo-list codony. How adorbs.

    • Ha, thank you Clarissa! And yes, we certainly do talk to her like an adult – I think tone goes a long way for those littles. ;)

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