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Why, mum, why? The art of 3-year-old conversations

It can be cute when your three-year-old asks their first “why” question. But having to answer why water is wet, why grass is green, or why Mummy loves Daddy, can become tiresome.

You might be surprised to learn that children really do want to know the answer to these questions. When you treat these seemingly random questions seriously, kids become satisfied more quickly, compared with a brush-off, patronising answer, or irritated dismissal.

The “why” phase starts at two years old and starts to fade by the time your child turns four. It often peaks at age three, when your young one is feeling the most curious, leading them to ask up to 50 questions in an hour.

The good news is, this behaviour actually reflects the beginning of critical or analytical thinking, and shows your child is developing ways of understanding the world and their place in it.

So how do caring and nurturing parents survive this period?

The first thing is to remember that, while these questions by your child are serious to them, they can also be very forgiving if you don’t know the answer.

So, negotiate your way out by asking your own questions – three-year-olds can also be quite opinionated. Answers such as, “I think it is this, but what do you think?” will not only get you out of a tight spot; they will also help your child to reflect and develop their own critical thinking-styles.

Parents should take their child’s questions seriously, and engage with them in conversation instead of dismissing them or showing frustration. (Rawpixel pic)

Most kids ask “why” because they want to engage in dialogue on a topic that is genuinely interesting to them. Answering them properly is an adult response that would allow you to connect more easily with them.

Be a child again

Apart from providing you an opportunity to teach your child how to engage socially, answering their questions requires you to look at the world from their perspective again. Once you do this, your three-year-old will find you absolutely fascinating.

Really, it’s all about finding the right words to communicate with them. And, as an added bonus, your child develops a sense of security and confidence that will stay with them for life.

There is an art to the way you answer their question with a question – your tone needs to deliver a sense of wonder and curiosity. Three-year-olds are masters at reading subliminal cues, so if you snap or growl, the question loses its magic.

It also helps to develop the body language of interest, even when you are tired or really disinterested. These can be as simple as a thumbs up, or you could cock your head to one side and smile, which communicates interest and encourages your child to continue with the dialogue.

It is also important to listen to the gist of the conversation because your three-year-old will start to develop the skill of checking and reconfirming what you tell them.

If all of this sounds exhausting, don’t feel bad! It truly can be physically and mentally tiring, but once you master it, the art of conversation will create short periods of reprieve that will allow you to better manage your chatty three-year-old. This post was featured on Free Malaysia today. Link here

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