For many pre-schoolers, their favorite question is “Why?”. Asking questions is a natural part of learning about the world around them. Often, adults assume this exploration phase ends about the time kids start school. I personally believe though, that children begin to squelch their oral questioning once they discover it irritates many adults.
As adults, we have learned (hopefully) that certain rules and authorities are to be obeyed. We understand God really does know what is best for us. We have a fairly good understanding of concepts like love, manipulation, anger and many others.
Children and teens are still discovering these more abstract worlds. They are figuring out whom they can trust, what works for them in the short term and hopefully what will be in their best interest for the long haul. They are not just trying to learn the rules, they are trying to understand why they became rules and if those rules are really important.
Because they are still exploring and experimenting, it is only natural that young people of all ages still have lots of questions. Unfortunately, many adults have stopped listening to them and answering these potentially life changing questions. Often kids and teens are told to “Look it up.”, “Figure it out for yourself” or “We can talk about that later” (which never seems to come). Even when adults believe they have answered the question, they have really missed the true underlying request – “Please tell me why.”
As a result, teens do begin to figure things out for themselves. Sometimes, they turn to less than reliable or even ungodly resources for their answers. Even under the best case scenario, teens just do not have enough life experiences yet to accurately and consistently filter the good answers from the potentially harmful ones. They still need help from a trusted, godly adult.
Who would most teens prefer to get their answers from for these all important questions? Study after study has shown that in spite of popular opinion, teens want and need to hear from their parents. They want the input of the people they know only want the very best for them. Oh, they may roll their eyes or moan and groan, but secretly they are relieved you can give them some input.
So the next time you see a puzzled look in your child’s eyes, ask them if they have any questions. Regularly check in with them and ask them what they think about things happening in their world or the world at large. Ask open ended questions about their friends and activities. Often these conversations will allow teens to open up and express their questions to you.
When they do ask questions, drop everything and take the time to give them a well thought out response. Don’t just throw rules and platitudes their way, but take the time to explain why that is the wisest choice. Help them understand the possible positive consequences for making good choices and the possible negative ones for making poor choices. Give real life examples of things you have experienced or seen in your own life.
Finally, respect them enough to ask them their thoughts and ideas on the subject. The more of an open dialogue you can keep with your children, the better your chances are of helping them navigate the unfamiliar waters of their approaching independence. I would love to hear about how you keep the questions coming from your older children and teens or how you remember to include the “why’s” of the answer. You can help other parents on their journey by sharing your experiences in a comment below.