I’m a psychotherapist and this is why should never ask your child ‘why’

WHEN a child misbehaves, a common question asked by their parents is “why did you do that?”

But, according to psychotherapist Jen O’Rourke, that’s the very worst thing you could ask.

Psychotherapist Jen O'Rourke has explained why you should never ask "why" of a child who misbehaves


Psychotherapist Jen O’Rourke has explained why you should never ask “why” of a child who misbehavesCredit: Tiktok/@jenorourkemft

“Quick tip,” she began in a recent TikTok video. “This is the one question you should not ask your child when they have misbehaviour. 

“It’s one of the first questions they tell us not to ask a child in a therapy session when working with a child. 

“The question is ‘why?’”

She went on to explain the reasons for not asking why, adding that often children don’t know why they did something.

“So when we say, ‘Why did you hit your sister?’ your child can’t say, ‘Well I was feeling a little disregulated and a little tired today and I couldn’t control my impulses.’

“They might say, ‘I don’t know’. And then you push more for why.

“Or sometimes younger children will just create a response because they feel like they need to have a response for you.

“Or for some kids it just puts them on the defensive and makes them go cognitive when they’re still not regulated and they’re emotional.”

Instead of asking why, Jen suggests making statement or asking different questions.

Responding to a mum asking what she should say if one of her kids hits the other, Jen said in another video: “My go to is to one, make sure my child is regulated, if they’re angry and screaming, I’m not going to be able to have a good conversation so I might wait a minute.

“And my default is what’s called sportscasting, or saying what I saw to invite the conversation. 

She added that a better way to engage with children after misbehaving is to make statements or ask different questions


She added that a better way to engage with children after misbehaving is to make statements or ask different questionsCredit: Tiktok/@jenorourkemft

“So saying something like, ‘I saw you guys playing Lego in there. Everything looked good, you seemed like you were having a good time, and then all of a sudden your sister had a red mark on her face and something went wrong.’”

She added that “sometimes that’s enough to invite the conversation”.

“Or just even saying, ‘Hey, what happened back there?’” she continued.

“The more engagement you get, the more you can teach a lesson and connect.

“Maybe something happened you didn’t see and they need a skill to figure out how to solve that problem.”

Jen was quickly praised for her suggestions by other parents commenting on the video, one of whom wrote: “Your videos are so much more helpful to me than much of the gentle parenting content I find. Please keep them coming!”

“That makes SO much sense!!” another mum added. “It takes the accusation and the defensiveness out right from the get go.”

“Yes!! Sportscasting and ‘Hey what happened’ occurs a bit around here,” someone else commented.

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