“No, You Think!”

About two months before her third birthday, the “why’s” began.

Long, recursive chains of “why?”

JuliaI’d heard about the “why’s”, but I’d never experienced first hand the phenomenon of a small child’s endless pursuit to discover why our world operates as it does.

Julia is determined to find out why everything happens.

It is adorable and I do often smile as I attempt to answer each question, but there are many times when I don’t feel like playing along.

Thinking to myself that there was a simple solution, one time when she asked “Why?”, I said, “I’m not sure. What do you think?”

But, clearly I was not to be outsmarted by this three-year-old.

“No, you think!” Julia replied.

I held back a laugh. I wasn’t going to get out of this very easily. I was so surprised by her response that I can’t remember what I said… I probably just went back to attempting to answer her question.

And so the “why’s” continue and I still do try the “What do you think?” routine, but Julia’s standard response is “No, you think!”

What about your preschoolers? Do they (or did they) drive you wild with “why’s”?


  1. says

    I love the why stage, too! Our oldest child, Karlos, has been the most inquisitive of all of them. When he was very young, I did very much the same as you seem to be doing with Julia, answering every “why” as best as I knew how.

    After a while, as Karlos matured emotionally, it became apparent that we were going to have to set some ground rules for the why’s, as they started to become a challenge to my husband and my authority. We established the rule that before he could question a request, he had to first say “yes Mommy” or “yes Daddy” and comply before he could ask why. He was welcome to ask as many why’s as he wanted after complying.

    This has become so essential to our family unit as our family gets bigger and bigger. We are now expecting our fourth child (that means we’ll have 4 children aged 5 and under) in November. When I am at the grocery store and I sense danger and need the kids to get into the car immediately, I know that I will not have to answer twenty questions until after we are all in the car and on our way somewhere safer.

    This little principle has built up the trust between us and our children. They know that we are doing things for their best interest and that their inquiries will be answered when the time is right, and we know that the kids will comply when we really need them to.

    Just my two cents. Thanks for sharing your story!


  2. says

    I have made it through one “why” stage, I am in the process of my second child’s “why” stage and I suspect my third won’t be too long in joining!

    Sometimes I just have to say “because I said so” and at first that drove me crazy but then I realized God says that to me all the time! I can’t understand his way of thinking so I just have to trust Him. Sometimes my kids just have to trust me. Because really, sometimes you just CAN’T give a good reason that a 4 year old will understand!

  3. says

    lol– I sit here reading this as I listen to my youngest quiz his daddy on “Why you hurt your foot?” “Why did you step in that hole?” “Why we don’t go to school tomorrow?” etc…. It only makes it even funnier.

  4. says

    LOL Maria… that is so funny that you were in the middle of a series of why’s.

    Kimbrah and Tara thank you both so much for your advice!!!

  5. says

    Overall I like the “why’s” because I know this is how they learn. I also wanted them to know that when they have a question about anything at all it is safe to come and ask Mommy and Daddy.

    The one difficulty is the volume of why questions. One thing we’ve done (and are doing with our youngest now) is require them to ask their question in a complete sentence. This completes many tasks. Among them, my favorite two results are as follows: 1. Decreases the volume of questions. 2. Pinpoints exactly what they are asking, which helped in my/our ability to answer them.

  6. says

    Oh, I miss that stage! The innocence and the inquisitiveness of the two and three year old “Why?” is so precious and I fear I let it slip by with the older two boys far quicker and with less cherishing than I ought have. With the next two, I tried to make games of it, to challenge their thinking to develop further and to interact with each other. There was a lot of “I don’t have the answer to that, why don’t you ask the brothers?” and we got a lot of fun answers and crazy questions as a result! When #5 comes home from China, you can bet we’re all gonna be thrilled to get in on the “whys” again!

  7. says

    I’m right there with you, but with my son I get more how’s than why’s. At least with the how’s if I don’t know I can say “lets go find out how” and we go to the computer and look it up. Why is not always so easy! But I must confess, I have learned a thing or two by trying to find out answers for him. Mommy is getting smarter too.

  8. says

    Have raised two kids through the “why’s”…eventually I got to the point where I would just make up answers, because I knew the answer to about one out of every ten question asked. Three year olds don’t remember the answers to “why is the sky blue?” anyway. So I just had fun with it. Kids never like the “I don’t know” answer until a couple years later. At this point, Mommy Is God and Mommy Knows All. So prove it! LOL

  9. says

    lol.Susan I”m there,McKenna always asks about the sprinkler(in the ceiing at Tim Hortons and extinguisher etc…Can’t wait to pass this stage…

  10. says

    We didn’t have the “whys” … instead we had, “What’s that?” Of course, in two-year-old-ese it was, “Wha dat? Wha dat? Wha dat, Mama?” Now that Katrina is three, she’s asking, “What that (noise/sound/thing)?” Thankfully, we’ve learned that if we wait long enough, she will answer herself. (“What that sound?” [pause] “It a noisy car!”) :)

  11. says

    You know its funny that this question came up! I was just talking to my sister about this, as my three year old nephew questions EVERYTHING! Most of the time she doesn’t mind answering the questions, but every now and then the game starts to wear on her.

    Our conclusion: She’ll answer questions for a while and when it starts to wear on her, she’ll say “Gabe, mommy loves to answer your questions, but lets answer two more and then we’ll take a break from questions for a while.” Usually, it works well. Sometimes, he won’t hear of. LOL!

  12. says

    My favorite (if you could call it that!) is when my son say, “Mama, isn’t this a cool car I built?”

    I smile and say, “Yes!”

    And he says, “Why?”

    And he is 5…so the “whys” are not easily outgrown. :-)

  13. Erica says

    Mine is in the why stage too, at 2.5 years. Sometimes it’s cute. Other times it drives me up the wall. She’ll ask for something, and I’ll give it to her. Then she says, almost with attitude, “Why’d you give that to me, Momma?” Ahhhh! Because you asked me for it!!! Or she’ll ask when I know very well that she knows the answer already. Sometimes it’s really fun to answer the questions, though, and I can really see her mind working. So I do and I don’t like this stage, but I’m sure I’ll miss it a little when it’s gone.

  14. says

    My two year old isn’t a “why-er,” his question is the deluxe version “What does ______ mean?” I can usually answer the first round, but it’s quickly followed by “What does ________ mean?” this time with the main part of the explanation as the subject. For example…

    B-“What does green mean?”
    Me-“Green is the color of grass.”
    B-“What does color mean?” (alt–“What does grass mean?”)

    I tend to go a round or two and then either ask him “what do YOU think it means?” (Standard reply “I don’t KNOW.”) When it gets down to the silliest versions he gets an exaspermused “You know what it means!” and then he giggles and drops it.

  15. says

    Okay, it’s funny, my 4 yr old son hasn’t done that much at all. He’s almost 5, and it will pop up but it always seems pretty appropriate. However, my 2 1/2 yr old daughter started just this week! Everything is “Why, mommy?” It’s in a very sweet voice (right now, at least), and it’s actually substituting “no” sometimes (which seems like a nice alternative). Something tells me it’s about to take over our lives if I don’t get it in check! One of the Mentor Moms at my MOPS gave good advice a few months ago to parent with this verse in mind: “Let your yes be yes and your no, no”. So many times I feel like I should explain my decisions to my kids so they see the “logic”, but really they just need to learn that mommy’s yes means it’s okay and mommy’s no means it’s not!

  16. says

    She’s a smart one, for sure! I love how kids infuse wonder and curiosity and exploration into everything.

    Our daughter is not yet two so we’re not quite at this stage yet, but I’m sure it’s coming…

  17. says

    My little one hasn’t started into the “why’s” yet – but I remember being in the “why” stage – I think it almost drove my single Dad crazy, I remember one day when we were driving across country to visit my grandparents that he told me that if I asked “why” one more time that day I would be in big trouble, since he said it in the voice that meant business I quit asking why for awhile! I can’t remember if I made it all day or not…

  18. says

    We just passed through our third “why’ stage and are now working on our way too big for our own britches stage.
    motherhood is grand šŸ˜‰

  19. says

    My twins recently turned 7 and they are more into the “Why” phase than I ever thought possible! Especially my “older” one…ok, he’s technically 2 minutes older, but we don’t really tell him that he’s older unless he asks. He is the type of kid who has to know how things work and if we can’t answer his question(s), he’ll find someone who can! The questions, however, get more complicated with each passing year. Which also means that it’s harder to answer his questions, too, lol. Sometimes his questions are so complex that I know he will never understand the answer. Unfortunately, for me, he won’t take no answer for an answer. *sigh* Someday I’ll be as smart as my kids, lol.

  20. says

    When my son finally entered the “why” stage, it was nothing like I expected. I hear other kids ask “why” after their parents tell them to do something. “Go put your shoes on,” “Why?” That’s not Ryan at all. He asks, “Why are you getting out of the shower,” and “Why are you wearing those present earrings?” and “Why are you stirring the cookie dough?”

    MAN it’s tough getting questioned about every little thing I do all day. I feel like I’m constantly talking, answering questions: “Because I’m all done washing my hair,” and “Because it’s Christmas-time and I’m going to a Christmas party. I thought the present earrings would be fun to wear,” and “Because we need to mix all of the ingredients together into the cookie dough so the cookies each taste the same instead of one having all of the butter and another having all of the sugar.” It’s truly exhausting thinking through the reasons for every…little…thing…

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