Why?

There’s a little boy who comes to the museum a lot with his mom and two little brothers. He’s super curious and loves engaging with all the exhibits. His favorite question, like many kids his age is, “Why?” Whatever the situation, that is his go-to. The incessant whys sometimes can be frustrating, and I can only imagine what his mother goes through, but then I started to think about why whys frustrate people so much. I think part of it is a sense of futility; that if one could explained why, he wouldn’t fully understand at the time. And the other part of it is a sense of pride; people don’t like being questioned. Both of which are stupid reasons to be frustrated about a question.

At that age, and throughout adolescence, asking why seems to often be perceived as disrespect. Asking why is considered talking-back rather than just doing as you’re told. To me this is kind of messed up, and perhaps stems from culture and from personal insecurity. If a child is genuinely asking why something is the way it is or why they are being asked to do something, I think they should get an answer. Shutting down their “why” is shutting down their curiosity; its telling them to accept things the way they are, because that the way it is.

Yes there probably is a point where “why” becomes a real talking-back tool, but I think a genuine “why” is pretty easy to distinguish. And obviously working/ dealing with children is not as simple as that, there are a bajillion other things to consider, (e.g. time constraints, cognitive ability, psychology, etc.) but I think we owe it to their future, and to our own, to support curiosity whenever possible.

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