Notes on Parenting

Insights for parenting babies, toddlers, teens, and young adults.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Children's Questions - What's In It For Parents?

Don’t you just love the type of questions kids ask: Why does Johnny have a cold? Why is there bark in the playground? Who looks after grandma when grandpa is at work? Why can’t we watch one more show? And on it goes. As soon as they learn to say the word Why? they fire it at their parents with innocent vigor. No topic is off limits.


Although you might feel under siege by your three or six-year-old, whose Why? sounds like an automatic weapon, this  is a very natural phenomenon. So natural, in fact, that  you could easily overlook what is in it for parents. For instance, when a  child asks: Why  do I have germs? there are quite a few options available to you to respond. E.g., I have no idea; That is just the way it is; Let’s ask auntie Beth, she is  a doctor; They are part of life,  just like spiders and flies. And, of course, any reply you make will, again, meet with Why?

     You might not always have the time and inclination to give an answer that is well-thought through. There is no need to feel guilty if you do not find the time or energy to fully engage in a conversation at all times. There are times for doing and times for talking and you do not shortcut your children when you postpone your involvement in the matter they bring up. The word involvement is actually a key word here, and it points to that which can be of value to parents concerning their children’s questions.

Be a companion

When you involve yourself with a curious child, you step out of your own limited little circle of assumptions and perspectives and enter the child’s world of experience. Immediately it is clear that any brush-off  kind of answer is totally insufficient. The child needs a companion on the road to discovery, not a non-committal bystander. Even if you do not know the full answer to all questions, an honest reply is always in order.

     In the  example of the question about germs, the next question could be: Why do germs make people sick? Again, you could answer in a quick remark aimed at silencing the child, or you could stop and get involved.  Why do germs make some people sick?  Or more general: Why do people get sick at all?  And with this question you open the door to new ways of looking  at life’s situations. You do not have to go out and explore medical data, but rather search for an answer that feels right from within.

A Child's Refresing Perspective

When you commit yourself to giving an honest answer, a simple question like the one about germs can be an invitation to look beyond the commonly accepted assumptions and opinions. Even if you are totally confused, as in many instances you surely will be, it is better to honestly admit that you do not know any more than the child does, than to give an answer you know does not even satisfy yourself.

     In this respect it is interesting to consider the oft quoted words by Jesus: "Unless you become as children you will not enter the Kingdom of God.” This statement encourages respect for a child’s point of view. What a child’s point of view has to offer parents is a natural, unspoiled, unprogrammed look at life. Children look at life without preconceptions, prejudices and unquestioned beliefs. Entering into their world is rejuvenating. What you can gain from being involved with your children during their quest for the answer to the final Why?, is a thirst for clarity and an intolerance for ambiguous answers. You can learn from them not to be satisfied with half answers and not to compromise on sincerity.

     We'd love to hear what type of questions your kids ask you. Please share if you feel so moved.

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