I was kicked out of my high school math class for asking, “Why?” one too many times.
Or a million too many times, according to dear Mrs. Courtney.
I couldn’t help it when I was 17 and I can’t help it today. I need to know why the sky is blue, why people make the choices they do, and whyyyyyyyy is there is such a freaking thing as imaginary numbers? WHY.
I hate the ideas of ambiguity and limbo, and while I understand now that I realistically can’t (and shouldn’t) have the answers to everything, knowing the why of important matters can make all the difference in how I emotionally react to a situation and subsequently move forward with my actions.
Which is why answering, “Because I said so,” is not the most beneficial response a parent can give when kids are grumbling about strictly-enforced family rules.
The impressive thing about people, even children, is that our negative or positive response to learning the why of a situation isn’t typically determined by whether or not that why benefits us personally. Meaning that even if your boss asks you to work late for several days in a row (not a personal benefit), people tend to complain less—or even perform the task with pleasure—when they simply know why they were asked to do so. You still have to perform a task you may not love, but you more happily do it because you have a concrete reason.
> Asking yourself why connects you to a deeper purpose. -Deena Kastor, American Marathoner
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But communication is key, especially with teens and younger children who are already trying to navigate a confusing and new-to-them world. Communication about rules empowers our kids to not only understand the whys of limited screen time, for example, but it gives them a guideline that feels more like a safety railing than a thick prison wall. They can see where abiding by that guideline (and hopefully making the same good decisions on their own when outside of mom and dad’s direct influence) will actually get them in life.
Which means they fight back less because they feel a partnership in the course of action your family is taking. Uh, yes please.
Communication about the why of family rules coming from a reliable source (us, as parents) helps our kids manage their innate need for closure. It reduces anxiety and makes for more confident, happy, and well-behaved children.
And isn’t that what we all want?
Kids who understand our deep love for them and move forward in life knowing that they are worthy individuals who have strong foundations of good, rooted in how we parented them?
Please bless that we can all get to that idyllic state at some point, but let’s start simply—by not only providing the way for our kids to stay safe, but helping them understand why we’re doing it.
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