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Kids: the whys and wherefores of what they do.

Even though children differ in development, behavior, quirks, and preferences they are all little persons with similar traits and characteristics. Here are some of the common questions that parents would like to have answered but are hesitant to ask. They may also baffle you at times.

Why do kids eat dirt?

Dr. Sanford Matthews, an Atlanta Pediatrician, says, 'If a youngster is drinking more than 24 ounces of milk a day, it may be too much. That amount of milk could mean the likelihood of iron deficiency is high. Whole milk is heavy in calories and light in iron, so if a child uses up a third of his daily allowance in milk, there's not much room left that would provide the five to six milligrams of iron needed to supply the demand for this mineral. Therefore, the youngster (following some primitive instinct) may be eating dirt in an effort to supply the iron his system craves." Sound farfetched? Perhaps, but it could be the reason toddlers find mudpies so delectable.

Why do kids throw up so easily?

The gastrointestinal tract in children is underdeveloped, making it easy to regurgitate food. Most of them lack the verbal skills and the psychological reasoning to cope with stress and anxiety. When they get butterflies in their stomach from fear or tension, they throw up in an effort to get rid of the discomfort.

Regurgitation is similar to the process some birds use to provide food for screeching babies. Their mothers store the food in their gullets and bring it up when they reach the nest. Regurgitation isn't to be confused with vomiting caused by an illness or bacterial infection that creates the need to expel the food that is causing distress or sickness. Regurgitation is simply upchucking recently eaten food and is caused by an unconscious desire to get rid of unpleasant emotions. Unless the child is sick in other ways running a temperature, complaining of severe pains, etc.) regurgitation is not something to cause undue dismay or concern.

Why do kids have such runny noses?

It's a simple matter of architecture of the nose. It is so much shorter than an adult's that the opening between the front of the nose and the back of the throat only an inch or so long. As soon as a mucous bubble forms in the sinus gland (caused by a cold, allergy or infection), it's right out on the front of the face.

Even though the sight doesn't appeal to you, just wipe the kid's nose and understand it's a normal condition that will right itself as the youngster's face and head develop.

Why do kids stutter and stammer so long to express a simple idea?

Between the ages of three and six, it's common for a child to have breaks in "fluency." caused by their lack of a vocabulary to verbalize their ideas. They resort to repetitions, hesitations or vocalized sounds to fill in the spaces between words ... and to hold your attention. As long as the youngster keeps repeating sounds or words, you are held captive and paying attention.

Whatever you do, don't label your youngster as a stutterer or a stammerer unless the habit persists too long or becomes an impairment to communication. Most children outgrow this normal hesitancy unless it's a psychological or emotional problem caused by an impatient parent who misinterprets the hesitancy and compounds the problem by punishing or criticizing the child unduly, so the childish and normal tendency becomes an emotional problem that requires professional therapy.

Why do kids sit so close to the TV screen?

The average child, who spends from six to seven hours a day watching TV, usually perches on a stool or chair no more than three or four feet from the screen. Kids love to be involved with the action and the characters they see performing their derring-do feats make them want to be a part of the action. Seeing their reflection in the screen lends even more credibility to what they're seeing and involves them even more closely with the action.

Ophthalmologists who are asked, Will my child suffer eye damage from sitting so close to the TV set?- assure a parent that there is no cause for concern. If the child's eyes are normal, otherwise. If you have your youngster's eyes checked by the time he or she is three years old, you will know if the eyes are focusing correctly, etc. Just watching TV sitting close to the screen won't, in itself, harm your youngster's eyes.

Why are kids so awkward?

Children live in a fantasy world where Batman and Wonder woman perform amazing feats that fascinate children who want to do the same things. Unfortunately, their nervous systems aren't evolved enough to control and manage physical activity. This development usually doesn't take place before children are into their late teens. Naturally, kids who try to emulate their heroes fall down, trip and stumble their way from childhood into adulthood breaking a few bones and nursing bruises and sprains along the way.

Why do kids want to hear the same stories over and over?

The familiarity of the story is comforting to a youngster who dreads going to sleep in the dark. Because the child knows how the story is going to end, there are no surprises to worry about. He or she hopes to go to sleep with the same assurance that everything will be the same in the morning and that no bogey-man is going to appear during the night.

Furthermore, having a parent close by, reading a familiar and loved story, provides security that comes from a warm and comforting climate of love. We sometimes forget that children don't live in a fairyland all the time, but suffer tension, stress, fear and failure every day just as much as do adults. Their inability to verbalize their emotions does nothing to allay them, so familiarity and security are of prime importance to their peace of mind and the hope that all's well.

Why do kids keep asking "Why" all the time?

Usually, it's a simple ploy to keep your attention focused on them. Between the ages of four and six, children also use this technique as a delaying action to keep from doing something they don't want to do.

As they grow older, it can be a sincere desire to really learn more and add new words to the vocabulary, which increases their ability to relate to the world around them. Usually, they don't want a comprehensive lecture or in-depth encyclopedic answer, so don't belabor the reply.

Curiosity is an indication of intelligence, so children who are unusually bright are the most inquisitive. Even though they can drive you to distraction by asking "Why?" every minute of the day, comfort yourself with the fact that you are probably dealing with an intelligent mind that needs answers and explanations.

These are some of the whys and wherefores that can drive a parent to despair or worry or impatience. But they are perfectly normal behavioral actions that go along with a child's development and kids outgrow them as they develop physically, mentally, and emotionally.

Vivian Buchan is a free lance writer and a regular contributor to Pediatrics for Parents.
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Author:Buchan, Vivian
Publication:Pediatrics for Parents
Date:Nov 1, 1990
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