Here’s what to say when a child keeps asking you, ‘Why? Why? Why?’

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As any parent will tell you (wearily), pre-school children ask an awful lot of questions – up to 70 an hour, according to some research.

By the time children are five, those questions have changed so that many of them are complex ‘Why?’ questions – asking for an explanation of the world around them.

But what should a parent do, when faced with dozens of questions on subjects such as why the stars go away at night?

The New Yorker’s The Science of Us quotes an essay by Matteo Colombo, professor of philosophy at Tilburg University in the Netherlands.

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Colombo suggests that a mechanical breakdown of the answer is a good way to approach it – for instance, if asked ‘Why did that window break?’, a good answer is: ‘Because someone threw a rock at it.’

Sadly, the old parental staple of snapping, ‘It just does, OK?’ isn’t a good strategy at all – as research has shown that children who don’t get an explanatory answer are much, much more likely to ask another question, or re-ask the first one.

A 2009 study said, ‘When preschool-aged children receive an explanation to these questions, they appear satisfied (as evidenced by their agreement).

‘In contrast, when children do not receive an explanation, they are persistent in re-asking for this information or they suggest their own explanation.’

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