“Mom, why can’t we hang from power lines?”
“But mom, where does power come from?”
“Mama, why can birds sit on power lines but they don’t get electrocuted?”
“Mom, the sun is really far, right?”
“Mom, why is the moon out, too? It’s morning, the moon should be sleeping, right? RIGHT, MOM?!?!”
This is just a typical car ride with my oldest son. Every day he says, “Mom, I have sooooooooooooo many questions today, right Mom?” Most of his statements are, in fact, followed by the question of “right, Mom?”, “right Dad?”. He is such a curious little creature.
For some parents the unending inquisitiveness of their children can drive them quite mad. But for me, I get it. I understand the mind of this sweet child. You see, I was a “why child” too. Actually, I am a “why adult” with an insatiable desire to learn and challenge the reasoning behind decisions. I am pretty sure I came straight out of the womb talking and asking questions.
Growing up, my parents didn’t understand how to raise a “why” child. I can’t blame them. To them it seemed at every turn I was out to disrespect or defy their authority. In all reality, I was a straight-laced rule follower. They never quite grasped that I simply needed to put the dots together on how decisions were made and rules established. Saying, “Because I said no,” or, “Because I am the parent,” was like repeatedly stabbing me with a thousand needles. I wanted—no, I desperately needed—to understand more. Why? Why? Why?
For those of us parenting toddlers through elementary age, the “why” stage can be exhausting. I mean, it is stinking difficult to try to explain why you can’t just go to the moon today or where tornadoes come from. And the complex questions never seem to cease.
BUT, there is something so beautiful in this stage. Your child simply needs to know how things work. When you get to a series of questions you cannot answer, do not want to answer, or are simply too worn out to answer, don’t rely on yourself.
The first thing I like to do is flip the question back around. “Well, son how do YOU think we get to the moon?” I usually get the response of “I don’t know.” To which I reply, “OK, why don’t you take a few minutes and think of two ways you might get to the moon. Then let’s talk.”
This approach gives you a few moments to gather your composure and take a quick break. After you discuss their ideas, feel free to pull in other resources. Hand the question off to a spouse or grandparent.
Another option is to use technology. I learned this trick when my oldest was just a toddler and he kept playing with a space heater – super dangerous. Repeatedly I would warn him, to which he would respond “Why?” Finally, we watched a YouTube video of a space heater starting a house fire. He hasn’t touched one since. His little mind couldn’t understand why the space heater was dangerous—he needed to see it. In this case, technology for the win.
If you are raising tweens or teens—settle in. These children can seem defiant. Chances are they yearn for you to treat them like adults, even if you don’t feel they are ready. They are willing to take the punishment for their crimes but need to be walked through the decision-making process. If you won’t let them go to a party because you feel a friend or group could cause trouble, be upfront. The truth can be hard to swallow but I promise that your “why child” needs it and will return the honesty with trust. “Because I said so” is bound to divide and build walls between your relationship.
Lastly, make sure you recognize and honor this inquisitive gift. Your children have been blessed with a talent that can give them courage to speak out, an ability to stand upon their own beliefs, and the conviction not accept the status quo when something doesn’t seem right. Give their voices a platform in your home and encourage their critical thinking.
Ignoring or cutting them off will make your children feel as though asking questions is wrong. Instead, look for ways to point their questions toward useful learning. You have been given the responsibility of cultivating an analytical mind. It can feel overwhelming but make sure you don’t miss or squash this wonderful strength.
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