My #2 Guiding Principle in Parenting - ALWAYS talk in a mature manner with your kid(s), regardless whether YOU THINK they can understand what you are saying or not. Because, honestly they can be much smarter and more receptive towards understanding information than you actually give them credit for.
And when I said 'mature' I don't mean being BORING & FACTUAL & BOMBASTIC & SCIENTIFIC! I mean being MATURE in your content yet deliver them in a way or ways they can comprehend. If the kid has more of a kinestetic type of learning behaviour, then do activities that will help them understand the 'Whys' they have floating above their hair. If the kid is more of a auditory type, then take the time to really talk them through. Point is, PLEASE treat the kid as a being who deserves to be TREATED EQUAL when it comes to COMMUNICATING and LEARNING new information (mostly where the information comes from us - the adults - to them - the kid).
IMHO based on my limited child raising experience, besides the silly repeats like 'mum-mum' indicating it is meal time or 'goo-goo-gaa-gaa-s' indicating, well just goo-goo-and-gaa-gaa-s that should really stop by the age of 3, the habit of brushing off a kid's genuine question should also really stop by then. YES (not surprisingly) it is the so-called ADULTS who are belittling the kids just because they are, well, LITTLE! Instead, a responsible / decent adult or caregiver (or whatever you'd like to call) should really take every opportunity that is presented to educate or provide as truthful information to the kid based on his/her questions. And I would call such opportunities - 机会教育 - or literally 'a LIVE chance to educate'.
Case in point: last night while I was checking the little man's school work and also helping him to pack for the next day's lesson, I saw something he has done (as picture below):
(Not sure why I can't rotate this pic into an upright position... -_- |||)
I casually asked him why did he draw a snake in the MY FAMILY column. He answered in a matter of fact manner "Because you have a snake tattoo mah Mommy...." Then he removed himself from his ipad (he was watching some youtube video) and walked to my back and pointed 'Neh, Mommy, this snake lor...' as though to prove that he knew what he was saying, either that or to make sure that I haven't forgotten about my tats. I nodded in agreement.
Then he asked (the inevitable): Why do you have a snake tattoo Mommy?
Because I like snakes and I want to have them on my body.
Do you like Scorpions too?
But both of them bite!
Yes, and they are poisonous. So if you see them, you run away ok? Otherwise if you get bitten, you will die.
Why are they poisonous?
Because they have poisons in their teeth. (Ok, I know scorpions have stings, but here 'teeth' was my best shot - off hand.)
Why I will die when I get bitten?
Because the poison will travel in your blood and then go to your heart and then make it stop. When your heart stop beating, you will die.
My heart moves???!!! (he is genuinely curious and surprised now)
Of course! Come, let Mommy show you! (Turned to get his ipad and started the Youtube app)
There it was, video of a beating heart on the surgery table. The little man just stared and stared at the beating heart (eyes really opened big big in astonishment by now with slowly dropping jaws).
Why the doctor is cutting the heart?
Because the heart is spoilt. It needs fixing.
Why is the heart spoilt?
Many reasons - maybe not enough exercise, maybe because of smoking, maybe too much fried and fatty food, maybe not enough water...many reasons.
And Papa smokes! Is his heart spoilt?
(With a poker face and a matter-of-fact tone, he said absentmindedly) I will tell Papa that his heart is spoilt and it will stop moving and he will die.
(I nearly choked on my saliva) HAHAHAH...ok ok, you go tell your Papa the next time when you see him.
(After a short pause, he announced) I will also never smoke!
There are many other incidences like this between us, where a conversation started in an innocent manner but ended up with the little man learning something valuable. For us, this episode has given me the chance to educate him about the harmfulness of ciggarets probaby more effective than any big-bduget anti-smoking campaign could do.
So what I am trying to share here is that, don't brush off their questions, give them your time and patience (if not immediately then make it a point to get back to it shortly after) because it is ALWAYS an opportunity to share with them a value / principal / idea etc etc, if not all three. And you can always use SMALL WORDS to explain BIG THEORIES. It is only when you are able to deliver a message in the SIMPLEST way that you truly understand what you are explaining. So your little ones are actually the BEST people for you to practice your 'SMALL talks' and return, they help you gain perspective (back to the basic of what is important in life) and patience!!!