Out of the blue last night my dad said to me “You know, you said something interesting today.” I paused, not quite sure where this conversation was headed.
“You said asking ‘why’ is important.”
I was speaking to a friend who is a math tutor and I happen to lament that the reason I struggled so much with math in school was the teachers had never stopped to explain to us why. Why the steps for solving the problems were the way they were. I had said the easiest way to help a child (or teen, in this case) is to explain why. Then we got to talking about other things and I forgot the conversation – until my dad brought it up.
As we started talking about the word “why,” my dad said it is one of the most important words we have, and nothing shapes you or your world as much as “why.” This got me thinking and I said, “Well there are two things you don’t have to teach children, things they are born knowing how to do. One of those things is playing, the other is asking why.”
As we get older and turn into adults we tend to not ask “Why?” nearly as much. We generally fall into a state of acceptance and beliefs that we rarely question. However asking “why?” is one of the quickest ways to learn and grow. It is an easy way to incorporate creativity into your family and get your child questioning and exploring the world around them.
Drilling Down – An exercise in asking “why?”
When you “Drill Down” you are seeking the deepest level of something through asking “why.” Children do this naturally. If you have ever had a conversation with a kid who asks you “why” every time you offer an answer, you’ll know what I mean.
It can be a useful technique to get kids to think deeper, to consider consequences of their and others’ actions, and to help them identify their feelings (especially useful for kids who act out and have a hard time articulating why they are angry).
To use the “Drill Down” technique all you have to do is ask “why” in a way that causes your child to think deeper. For example: Your daughter gets home from school very upset because her best friend got mad at her “for no reason.” Asking your child why her friend might have been upset could reveal a whole bunch of reasons why her friend was already upset, providing a little more perspective to the situation, and helping your daughter to have more understanding and compassion for her friend’s circumstances.
The BIG “Why’s?”
Asking “why” is human nature, we seek out the great mysteries of life by asking why. Sometimes we even ask “why” to questions that have no concrete answer and, as we search for answers, it becomes a part of who we are and what we believe.
Encourage your children to ask “Why?” even if there is no simple, straight forward answer. Part of growing up is asking questions and forming our own conclusions. This can be hard for parents – sometimes kids will come to conclusions that differ from yours – but giving them the gift of being secure enough to ask “Why?” leads to greatness.
“Why?” as a creative catalyst
Kids are naturally curious and want to understand the world around them. They love to create and invent so getting them started is sometimes as easy as asking them a “why” question.
Some examples: “Why do kids always seem to not like vegetables?” This could lead you and your kids on a kitchen mission to invent new and fun tasty recipes incorporating vegetables.
“Why are there recycle bins everywhere?” Observations like this could lead to new school programs or school projects on recycling.
“Why don’t they make this product more kid friendly?” Asking negative questions like this one can stimulate young minds into coming up with new ideas and solutions. Many great products for kids were inspired or created by kids themselves.
“Why” Cause and Effect
Going back to how this topic came up, “Why” gives you a purpose. School lessons become easier when you can understand the cause and effect relationship between what you are learning – essentially the “Why.” Learning math for the sake of learning math can be frustrating but once you realize knowing math can help you save money, build a fort, or bake cookies, it starts to seem a lot more useful!
Sometimes seeing the “Why” in what we are learning can be tricky. Our school system seems to break everything into “Subjects,” making it even more tricky to see how one subject really carries on into other subjects and life! For example, grocery shopping and cooking a meal calls on skills you learn in Math, English, Science and perhaps even History& Geography (especially if you are trying some different ethnic foods). As a parent it is important to help your child draw these connections as they often aren’t made in school.
Every time your child asks “why?” there is an opportunity to learn and grow. What are some of the “Why’s” your children ask?