If you parent a toddler, your day is filled with questions. It’s one of the many ways young children explore the world around them and begin to understand it better. Millions of words have probably been written about the questions of children. We don’t often talk, though, about the questions parents should ask. I guess we view parenting as more of an ongoing lecture or a string of requests and commands.
There are a lot of questions you need to ask your kids. Most of them you probably ask daily like “Did you brush your teeth?” or “Have you finished your homework?”. There is one question I am beginning to realize many parents don’t ask nearly enough. For Christian parents it is an essential question, because it helps you get to the heart of the situation more easily. Christian parenting after all, is a focus on shaping the hearts of our children so they will seek and obey God.
So what is this all important question? “Why?” As in, “Why are you interested in that?” “Why do you think you feel that way?” “Why did you want to do that?” “Why do you think God told us to do that?”.
Why questions are great. They are designed to be open ended and create an opportunity for a dialog on a topic. Why questions help you get past what was initially said or done and find out the root – or in our case the heart – of the problem. These types of questions will encourage your kids to share what’s really on their hearts and minds with you.
As I watch secular parenting “experts” give advice on many topics of great concern to Christians, I notice the why questions are missing. Because they aren’t asked of their children, parents are jumping to all kinds of conclusions. They are sometimes making poor decisions based on those conclusions – often doing harm to their children in the process.
Satan is tricky. He can convince us of almost anything if we aren’t careful. Even if it’s not a question of right or wrong, understanding why your child wants something will help you make the best parenting decisions. Once you have answers to “Why?”, you can begin to do what your child needs from you as a Christian parent.
For example, if your son comes up and says to you “I want to be a girl”, secular parenting experts today are often telling parents to go ahead and start gender reassignment processes. Yet a simple, “Why do you feel that way?” may reveal he is merely upset because he likes bright colors and thinks only girls get to wear them. Finding him some brightly colored clothes for boys may be all he really wants or needs. Or there may be an issue with gender confusion. If you don’t ask “Why?” you will never know for sure. If you follow secular parenting experts’ advice without asking “Why?”, you may unknowingly push him into doing something he wasn’t really asking to do or panicking about a perceived issue your child doesn’t have.
Some of you may get shrugs or one word responses when you ask your kids a why question. Don’t give up. Ask the question in other ways. Ask your child to think about it and give you an answer later that day. Make sure you are regularly actively listening to the things your child says to you. If you don’t normally pay attention to anything they say, they may not give you the answers you need. In some cases, you may have to reassure your children you won’t punish them or yell at them – even if you don’t particularly like their answer. Be honest and tell them you may want to have a voice in what happens after they share, but you need to make it safe for them to tell you what is really going on in their hearts and minds. You can’t help and Christian parent if you don’t have an accurate understanding of what is happening in their hearts.
So ask your kids “Why?” a lot. Keep asking until you believe you are really at the heart (or their hearts) of the issue. At that point, you should have more accurate information about what they are really thinking and feeling. That information is a lot more reliable for making informed Christian parenting decisions. You may not always like their answers, but you can’t work with them on problem areas if you don’t know what they are. Unexposed and unparented hearts that could have been a simple fix if caught early can grow and morph into something that will have a huge negative impact on your children’s futures. Or not. You won’t know for sure until you ask “Why?”.