I don’t know about you, but my Albert Einstein of a seven year old asks all the questions. From the time he opens his beautiful green eyes until those long lashes fan him to sleep, he is ALL questions. Most of the time he wants to solve all of the mysteries of the universe and figure out the most advanced math equations exactly at bedtime. How can he dare go to bed without knowing how many seconds are in a year? Or how to travel to different dimensions? Or the distance from Earth to Heaven? Or the always fun, “where do babies come from?”
Curiosity and wonder are in the DNA of our children. We are wired to be inquisitive about the world around us. But let’s be honest: sometimes it gets on my last nerve. Anyone else? Anyone? One thing I have learned as a mom of an adult child and a toddler is effectively answering questions is vital to not only their learning, but is crucial in building the trust in your relationship so that later they come to you with the harder questions in life. It’s so easy to give the ” I don’t know” response or brush their questions off. So how do we effectively answer their questions?
Here are some of the ways I have handled the inquiry from toddler to teen:
- Turn the question back on them. For questions that are very curious based like “where do unicorns come from?” a simple “what do you think?” often will ignite an answer within them that is satisfactory. Not to mention it is sometimes fun to hear how their minds think. I always follow up with a response such as “I like the way you think,” or “I like your answer.”
- Acknowledge, Prepare, Respond. Sometimes the questions are a matter of the heart or pertain to a sensitive issue and deserve a thoughtful response. When these types of questions arise I always acknowledge them with “that’s a great question.” Then I offer a time delayed response to prepare a thoughtful answer. “I want to give you the right answer so I am going to think about it/pray about it/research it, and I will get back to you.” This is vital because you are modeling that some questions and decisions need time and proper thought. Most importantly FOLLOW THROUGH and respond thoughtfully. You are building profound trust when you do get back to them. They will know you take their questions seriously.
- Safety, Learning, and Well-being. And for those all day every day rite of passage mom questions, I always respond from this list of go-tos. Our “BECAUSE I SAID SO” has run its course, Mamas. Why can’t I run in the house with scissors? Because dear (total sarcasm can be inserted here) it is for your safety. Why can’t I eat ice-cream for breakfast? Because my love (more sarcasm) it is for your well-being. Why do I have to sit in time out? Because it is for your learning. Any question can be given one of these thoughtful responses and you know what happens as they grow? They will make decisions based on these three responses. I have seen the fruit in my own adult child. How does this affect my safety, learning, and well-being? But also, it once again reassures your child that you do have their best interest at heart.
The questions never end. But do we want them to? Life is a beautiful unfolding of the curiosity and wonder of the human experience. Often I have found that my children’s questions have ignited that little girl inside of me who still wants to seek and find. Once we stop asking, are we really living?