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Monday, September 22, 2008

When You Run Out of Answers....


Young children are notorious for asking "Why?" or "What's that?" Their little brains are thirsting for knowledge. It seems as though they just can't get enough, or be completely satisfied with our feeble attempts to explain the greater workings of the world. I don't know about you, but I find it really really hard to explain why I can't play the last song that just came on the radio over again, to a three year old.

Recently, I began to wonder if children ask questions, not so much for the answer, but for the attention. I find that Sugar seems to ask me MORE questions when I am busy doing something, or if we have had very little time together. Could her questions really be an invitation to spend more time together? Could she simply be asking me to slow down and converse with her? This really sparked my curiosity when a recent conversation went down like this:

Sugar: What is that boy's name, Mama? (pointing to a child in a catalog)

Mama: (Busy saving the world Blogging) I don't know, honey.

Sugar: Please just tell me, Mama!

Mama: Honey, I would tell you if I knew, but I don't.

Sugar: Mama, if you just think hard enough, you will know.

Mama: (laughing) I wish it were that simple, but Mama really just doesn't know.

Sugar: (looking up at me, and holding my face in her tiny hands) Just tell me, okay?

Given these new thoughts, I have made a conscience effort to stop what I am doing and give Sugar Bear some much needed attention when I find her asking the dreaded, "Why?", "What?", "Who?" or "How?" I make an effort to mentally and physically connect with her while I do one of the following things:

-try to actually answer her questions in the simplest, yet warm and engaging manner I can muster. "Honey, that song was on the radio. Mommy can't play that song again, because someone else is in charge of the radio, and they are playing the songs they want us to hear!" (lame I know! sigh) Then continue to answer the follow-up questions as best I can, knowing that it isn't the answer she wants, but my time.

-take the spirit of her question and just free flow into a conversation that doesn't really answer her question, but touches on the subject at hand. "OOOOO yeah, wouldn't that be fun to hear that song again? Mommy loves that song. It makes me feel like dancing! I love dancing, don't you? Remember how much fun we had dancing with K and L when they came to our house? Yeah.....that was a blast. Let's say we dance when we get home. I'll turn on some music, and we'll have a little dance party. You and me! How does that sound?" I continue to encourage a conversation about the subject, yet not answer the initial question.

-turn the question back on her with, "What do you think, Sugar?" and I give her as much time as she needs to tell me her thoughts on the subject. This is one of my favorite techniques. Children LOVE to be heard. They are creative, funny, and smart. I am forever blown away with Sugar's ideas. She may not know for sure "WHY" something is the way it is, but she sure as heck can spin a tale about it. It melts my heart to hear her sweet, innocent version of things.

It is painfully apparent that I don't know as much as I think I do, and I'm NOT talking about how the world works. All this time, my daughter hasn't been trying to drive me insane with the most difficult questions on earth, she has simply been asking, "Will you spend time with me?"

Believe it or not, when I use one of the three method's described above, 5-10 minutes invested, and she is satisfied, AND I am seeing LESS of the questions....yes, I did say LESS. One of the most heartbreaking phrases I hear from other parents is, "They are just doing it for ATTENTION!" Ummmm.....yeah, maybe they are, but it certainly doesn't mean the problem is THEM. If children are doing something to get attention, by all means give them the attention they deserve. Isn't it our job as parents to give our children what they NEED? It is my belief that children NEED and thrive on attention. They NEED physical closeness. They NEED to feel important, heard, and loved. They NEED to be put first, as least some of the time. They NEED us. All too often parents fear that if they give their child something they are begging for, the child will just learn to beg more. I believe that if the giving is done with care, the child will get what they need without begging, thus ending the need to beg.

It is my hope that along with Sugar Bear, the next time your child asks "Why?", maybe the answer will be "because YOU are important to me!"


26 Live It or Love It:

Rose said...

Corey, that is beautifully worded, so true. I actually go through very familiar moments and conversations with Harrison. He only asks me certain questions when he is needing (and I say needing as opposed to wanting on purpose) my attention. Of course when he wants me he says, " Mommy I NEED you." But I still listen to him. we only have them for a short time.

I work at home and that is tough sometimes. But when I stop and sit with him and talk or play for awhile, he is more relaxed and content. (and has even dismissed me to "go work Mama)

I overheard an annoying exchange today. Two preschool teachers with their class were waiting for an enrichment teacher (Tom), they were chatting with each other, uplifting and encouraging each other. During their exchange one little child continually asked, "Where's Tom? Where's Tom" Even asking the teacher by name, but the teacher never responded. Frankly, it made me nuts that the teacher didn't stop to acknowledge the child. (first, it's her job, second, it would have been affirming to the child and the child would probably have stopped asking.) But that is my opinion.

Gayle said...

You are so right. Most behaviors adults say are "annoying" are attention seeking. A child who gets adequate interation is usually more satisfied.

kat said...

That was beautiful. You're such a wonderful mom and it shows.

My nephew has been testing my patience by asking tons of why questions during a six hour car ride and I tried to answer every single one of them. It is quite a task...

Anonymous said...

SO true!

Anonymous said...

A wonderful observations, as always!

Anonymous said...

I think you hit it exactly. I love hearing what The Bean thinks about things when I turn her questions on her. It makes them feel important, noticed, and loved.

Autumn said...

While I agree that it is usually attention they are seeking. I believe there are times when it isn't a need and purely a want. I don't always give into the constant questions. If I am on the phone trying to have a conversation, after just playing for two hours with Bug, it is a want and not a need for attention. If it has been a long school day and he is barraging me with questions while I try to blog, it's a need for my attention and I gladly start a conversation and spend much needed time with him.
I love the pictures of sugar, I think she is looking more like you everyday!

Jaimie said...

Thx for that Corey!

Corey~living and loving said...

I totally agree with you Autumn. It isn't always a NEED. I suppose I could have said that when my child is hitting me up with the "why's" I should stop and think about how much attention I have given her that day. I do think that children's level of NEED changes daily. Just like us, they have good days and bad days. Some days I find Sugar rarely needs my one on one, and others she'd gladly fit in my back pocket all day. I try to meet those needs as best I can.
Thanks for all the great comments. :) Love this conversation. I suppose I was needing attention. tee hee

Tabitha Blue said...

Such sweet, precious photos of Sugar Bear! She's a cutie.

Thanks for that graceful kick in the pants! ;)

It is so true how much our kids look to us for affirmation, and we can miss that.

My little one has been saying 'Mommy, look at me" when she's talking sometimes. I think it's because she realizes that my attention isn't really there when I'm looking at something else, so she's asking for my attention. I appreciate your honesty in sharing!!

Maude Lynn said...

Beautiful post! I have to give myself frequent reminders about this. In fact, I think I'll print this out and post it on my fridge!

Mary Ellen said...

What an excellent post Corey!

AnnD said...

You need to publish a parenting book. Along with those gorgeous pics of Sugar!

Christina said...

What a beautifully expressed post! And oh so true. Short on time, or I'd say more. :o)

Carolyn said...

Wow Corey. Terrific post. And exactly what I needed to hear as I sit here blogging while Csilla watches TV. Must go give her my attention... the attention she deserves... right now!!

xo c

holly said...

see now when queen of hearts used to ask me something more than twice, i'd make it up. a little artistic license never hurt anyone.

"what's his name, mommy?"
"i don't know."
"no really tell me."
"bob. his name is bob. robert for short."

Anonymous said...

I use a lot of these, too Corey -- isn't it funny how they believe in our ultimate power to halt radio and live TV in its tracks :D

david mcmahon said...

The most important rule of life is that there will ALWAYS be more questions than answers.

Deb said...

That is a wonderful post, Corey, and I love your thoughts as always. I've been struggling with the fact that Abby, at age 7, still barrages us with the 'why' question - and it's almost always ones that we can't answer. In her case, I know that it comes at least partly from an almost obsessive need to KNOW how things work or why something is the way that it is. But it doesn't make it any easier when I'm in the middle of trying to do something else or after the 25th 'why' in a row... Whether she's doing it purely for attention or not, I need to remember to take the time to answer her questions as best I can, and not get so frustrated with her. Thank you.

Jo Beaufoix said...

Corey, Miss M is just the same at the moment and I now you are right, she's asking for time, not necessarily the answers. And those photos of Sugar are just stunning.

Anonymous said...

A lovely post and stirred up memories of soft necks, sweet breath, starlike plump hands clutching at my sleeve and the words 'Mummy, mummy, why...'Now even my grandchildren are young adults but the memories of those precious baby years are as fresh as ever.

Anonymous said...

A lovely post and stirred up memories of soft necks, sweet breath, starlike plump hands clutching at my sleeve and the words 'Mummy, mummy, why...'Now even my grandchildren are young adults but the memories of those precious baby years are as fresh as ever.

The Egel Nest said...

So what is the name of the boy in the magazine? Tell me...Please MAMA! :)

I vote for attention...over interest in most cases...I get the face turn several times a day :)

The Egel Nest

Leslie: said...

SO true and profound. I finally learned this lesson and my daughters are all grown up. When the unmarried one comes over and she starts talking to me about anything, I turn off the TV and sit and listen. It's hard NOT to make suggestions or help her, but I try really hard to just be the ear and the shoulder for her.

Michelle said...

thank you for this reminder!

Anonymous said...

Wonderful post. So true.

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