Asking “Why?”

Written by Christy Whitman October 11, 2011


When you are communicating with your children it is best to not ask “why” questions.

What are “why” questions? Examples are:

  • Why did you do that?
  • Why did you hit your brother?
  • Why did you throw that food on the floor?
  • Why did you . . .

And why is it important to not ask “why” questions? Because it always puts people on the defensive. It has a very accusing tone to it. And there are only two possible ways of answering a “why” question:

  1. I don’t know.
  2. Because . . .

When you ask a “why” question, people who answer the second way with “Because…” will search for the answer that will make you feel satisfied, but it won’t be their truth. So your children won’t be honest because that is not what Mommy or Daddy wants to hear.

If I ask my son, Alex, “Why did you throw that food on the floor?” he won’t say to me, “Because I wanted to.” He knows it is not what Mommy wants to hear. He knows that answer will not fly with me or my husband.

With the first way, children will say to themselves, “What does she want to hear? I can’t seem to come up with the correct answer so…” and then they answer, “I don’t know.”

Try asking questions in a different way. If your child does something, instead of asking, “Why did you…” ask instead:

“How did you feel when you did xyz?”

“What made you want to do that?”

Anything is better than a “why” question, which only puts them on the defensive and causes a wedge in your relationship. If you want your children to feel safe with you and to be real and honest with their feelings and in their communication, stay away from “why” questions.

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