28 answers

Does Your Child Say "What" All the Time?

In the past few days, my 3.5 year old has started to ask "what?" after most things I say to her, and i have to repeat myself over and over. I know she understands the meaning of what I am saying, and I know that she can hear me because sometimes I'll repeat myself in a softer voice to see whether she can hear me, which she can. She is a highly verbal, intelligent kid. So, I'm wondering, is this normal 3 year old behavior?

What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

Thanks, everyone!! Many of your posts made me smile. Good to know that we're not alone! :)

Featured Answers

My 4 1/2 year old asks WHAT and WHY over, and over, and over, and over.........

Passed his hearing test with flying colors. Bright kid. Think it's normal.

2 moms found this helpful

Very normal! They start to tune us out at this age! lol! (you'll notice that husbands do this too :)

2 moms found this helpful

My 2 1/2 yr old son went through a phase of saying "what" all the time and has since moved on to other things. Completely normal.

1 mom found this helpful

More Answers

My 4 1/2 year old asks WHAT and WHY over, and over, and over, and over.........

Passed his hearing test with flying colors. Bright kid. Think it's normal.

2 moms found this helpful

Normal & remember

"Why" is on the way too (very soon) ;-)

2 moms found this helpful

Very normal! They start to tune us out at this age! lol! (you'll notice that husbands do this too :)

2 moms found this helpful

I was loosing my mind with this same issue with our 4 yr old. I asked a family member with a degree in child development and she said it's a normal part of their processing. They do hear you but it takes their brain longer to process what they have heard. Now when she does it I don't respond or repeat right away and it stops.

2 moms found this helpful

I agree, not only is it a habit but it's a way of stalling for time. Usually if you ask them to repeat it back they can!

Next time you want to say something make sure you have her attention. Say her name and wait until she's looking at you. I know as parents it's easy to just talk AT your kid.

When my stepdaughter was six she did this A LOT. I started getting her attention and then I'd make her repeat everything back. When she got mad I'd say "well, you say 'what' all the time so I'm trying to make sure you're listening." She got herself out of the habit quick!

But for a 3.5 year old, just getting her attention first and making her look at you should be fine. And turn off the TV before you speak. I have to do that too!

1 mom found this helpful

I've always thought that kids ask what or why, after you say something to them, to confirm understanding or request more information. I've never felt it was a discipline issue or an annoying habit, more like it's a normal part of information processing.

They heard what you said, they thought about it, then they ask to see if they heard it right, if so- you'll repeat yourself, or if you will add more detail. That's my take on it. When my kids, my students, or grandson do this, I add a little information then ask them a question back.

What puts me off is when kids say, "I know" to everything. What a conversation stopper!

1 mom found this helpful

LOL, I have to say it is just the WHAT? Stage. My son is 41/2 now and he went throught that about a year ago. To me it was so funny to read your story. My son has always been able to understand, I have to admit I think he just liked that word and he liked the idea he got me to talk to him everytime he said it. I think it was entertaining for him to make me repeat myself over and over again. After a week or so of him doing that, I would say "You heard me." Sure enough he started responding to everything I would tell him. Good luck... and I hope it doesn't last too long.
J.

1 mom found this helpful

My 2 1/2 yr old son went through a phase of saying "what" all the time and has since moved on to other things. Completely normal.

1 mom found this helpful

yes and so does my husband...lol

1 mom found this helpful

I think so! My boy 3.5 does it too. Sometimes our conversations are completely circular. I try to ask him what back or figure out if he is trying to ask something else but mixing up words.

Thats funny! When my son was 4 years old he started saying "what?" to everything I said, everything. I freaked out and got him an appointment with an audiologist. To pacify me, they did all the tests and at the end, like what my husband told me, he is doing it for fun and attention. Yeah, that was funny but then I just started to tell him "you heard me" and he did.

lol. Yep. Except my son isn't quite 3 yet. He asks what all the time! Or he'll be talking about something ie: a shirt, then I make reference to the shirt- and he says "what shirt?". Even though HE was just talking about it. lol. Drives me nuts. I think they just like that you will repeat it if the say what. Hopefully it will be a quick phase like the "why's".

I think it's a normal slang thing, and I think kids get it from other kids and adults. For example, when a kid yells, "Moooom?" The parent typically calls back, "What?" I have broken that habit by saying, "Yes?" Also training my 4 year old with "pardon me" instead of "what." Saying it in a softer voice is a good strategy. db

Sounds to me like she's toying with you!!! I have a 3.5 too...those little buggers will wear you out!!!!
My advice: Every time she says "what?"...you say "what?"....it will die on its own. (or just be really silly)
Good Luck!!
M:)

We also have a 3.5 year old and have gone through bouts of this problem off and on. Not sure why, but my theories are that either: 1) it's sort of a game to her, and/or 2) since her speech is not always very clear, and therefore we and other people often have to say "what" to her, she is imitating this behavior and turning it back on us. So you're not the only one to have had this issue! Hopefully she will soon lose interest and move past this, especially if you don't overreact to it.

Thiis her way to get extra attention if you do not want her to continue say you heard me the first time iftou do not care continue it will stop eventually A. raised 4 now have 7 grandchildren A. no hills

Hi there!
My nephew used to say "what?" after you said something to him. It was so annoying!!! I know he heard what I said! For him, it was just a habit. He eventually stopped saying it. After I realized he was doing it out of habit, I stoppped repeating myself. I would say to him, "if your not going to pay attention, then I'm not repeating myself". I always made sure that I was loud enough, and KNEW that he heard me the first time. I never made a big deal if we were in a room full of people, because maybe he really didn't hear what I said. But, it was those moments where I knew he heard me, but was just being annoying. It would drive me crazy when my other family members would just repeat themselves, even though it was clear that they were heard the first time.
I would stop repeating yourself to her. Especially if you KNOW that she heard you. You are just reinforcing her habit.
Good luck!

My 3 yo is doing the same thing! sometimes I tell her something different, and she says, 'no mom, that is not what you said'. I figured she picked it up at the babysitter's from the six yo... glad to know she is not the only one!
R.

I have a 3 and 4 year old and they are exactly like Lee P. described. I have gotten to the point that after I repeated twice and they ask again I simply reply I think you have heard what mommy has said. Please repeat to me what you think I said. 9 times out of 10 they repeat everything I said. So, I know they are just testing me.

Good luck!

It's funny - my son was driving my husband and me nuts doing that. I finally figured out that whenever I said something and he needed time to think about his answer and reaction, he would say "what?" I finally told him - you can just think quietly after we say something - you don't have to say something right away. You can have some time before you answer. That made a huge difference and I haven't heard him doing it as often lately.

My son is turning 3 in a few weeks and I also consider him a highly verbal and intelligent kid, but he loves to ask 'what?' all the time! I think he does it for attention/fun...because to your point, he can hear me quit well and understands exactly what I am asking of him. I wouldn't worry about it too much, probably something they'll get over soon enough.

Sometimes when I ask my daughter something, instead of answering she'll say, "I can't answer you because I didn't hear the question" which she obviously did because otherwise she wouldn't have known it was a question! Oh those little buggers do know how to drive us insane! : ) So yes, normal.

Normal! It will pass, but it can be frustrating, for sure. Try to make eye contact and be sure you have her attention when you want her to listen to you, or when you are asking her a question or to do something. Some three year olds can become very involved in what they are doing, so while they might "hear" you, they're not really concentrating, and comprehending your message. Teenagers have this problem as well.LOL!Try not to repeat yourself. Instead, when your child says "What?" ask her to tell you what she heard you say. If she can repeat what you've said, tell her you'd like her to respond to your question or request instead of saying, "What?". If you refrain from repeating yourself, and remain consistent, this phase should pass pretty quickly. Good luck!

Oh my gosh! My 4 yo DS does the same thing, and as someone said below, "Why" is now interchangeable with it! He's been saying "What" since he was 3, and I seriously thought several times of taking him to the doctor to check his hearing! LOL.

It's normal, but can be very exasperating. Some kids get into this habit as a way of stalling or avoiding actually doing what they are asked. When I have a child in my daycare who is doing this, I simply ask them "What did I say?" when they say "What?" 99.9% of the time, they will repeat back what you said, if not word for word then the basic gist of it. After that, I just say "You DID hear me. Please don't say 'what' when I ask you to do something. Just say 'Okay, M.' if you heard me." They break the habit pretty quickly following those tactics. However, it takes a while for us to break the habit of repeating ourselves everytime we hear "what?." :-)

Yes, mine does. Like all the others are saying, it's the phase of that age.

My daughter is also 3.5, and her new favorite thing to do when I ask her a question is zone out and not answer at all. Then when I ask her if she's listening she'll answer with a yes or a no thinking that's going to answer whatever question I asked her. It's driving me insane! But I think it's just normal behavior for that age. I think the problem is they are just not paying attention. While I'm sure that this too shall pass, I feel your pain because it makes me nuts!

Told my 10 year old that he was going to have to start paying me a dollar for every time he said, "Whut." at the beginning of a sentence. I advise breaking the cycle before the age of 10.

Try only saying it once. Give a direction and walk away (and then come back to check that she's done what you've said) or look/watch with your lips together and smiling eyes in anticipation of her doing the right thing (give it a few seconds of "wait time" and make sure you aren't doing the "mommy glare") Then give that baby a big hug. She will love you and want to do what you say. Do not repeat yourself or give reminders. Just replace the bad habit with a good one.

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