I learned a lot coming up through the ranks as a Dad. What to do, what not to do, how I want to do things (thanks Good Men Project), how I don’t want to do things. It’s this last bit I’m going to explore for a spell, and tie it together with intentional Dadding. I think many of us see examples of what we don’t want to repeat or model from watching others, and this can be just as potent an experience as any gem of wisdom.
I remember very vividly, as a young child that whenever I asked a question about why I had to do something, the answer was almost always “Because I said so.” This vexed me to no end, because not only was I left without a logical reason, but it strengthened the fear I had of my parents as authority figures. Now, it should be said, as a child I was quite irascible and by most accounts the number of times I asked “why” was on par with legends right out of the record books. My parents were probably trying to just stem the onslaught of my overflowing curiosity and challenging of their rules. As this pattern spiraled into my formative years, I vowed that when/if I ever had kids, I would never use that as an answer. Besides, since one of the main things I try to model and teach is not to assume, I have to be open to questions.
This proved easier said than done, as my parents’ wish for me to have kids just like me indeed came true. My twin 10 year-old girls are constantly asking why. Science why questions. Life why questions. My authority why questions. All kinds of why questions, all the time.
Frankly, it delights me. I see it as a way to program my children I mean, when you think of it, parents have limited ability to have input with their kids. In any given 24 hrs, they spend about 8 sleeping, 8 at school, and 8 at home. Combine this with the fact that kids are more likely to be influenced by non-family members, and parental input is precious little. So any opportunity to add input I heartily welcome with relish and creativity. Additionally, there is a layer of different types of answers that work best with different types of questions. Questions can come in different classes: Repeats, Curiosities, Boundary Testing, and Stalling.
Here are the responses that I offer up:
Straight up facts: If I am knowledgeable about the subject matter, and the answer is interesting, I am happy to expound on a subject. This offers me an opportunity to exercise Einstein’s quote “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well.” It is my goal to tailor my answer by being as concise and efficient as possible.
This comes as a learning experience because sometimes I find I’m not as knowledgeable about something as I thought. Since practice makes perfect, I should be all set for the harder talks later in life, though. As I explain, I model the values of concise speech and knowledge of subject matter through mindfulness and curiosity. These answers work best when there is shock value in the answer. Useful for Curiosities and Boundary Testing, and Repeats where consistency is being tested.
Silly “facts”: I relish making up awesome answers that are slightly less than true, as I choose to model part of my Dadding protocol after the Gary Larson and Bill Watterson school of parenting. I model creativity and lateral thinking and the ability to play with existing knowledge. Since these answers are less than serious, they are best suited for repeats to jog a previous explanation, and stalling. Creativity helps with the patience that is required.
Silence: An important part of explaining things is to teach recall, similar to reading comprehension skills. I am happy to explain any and everything…to a point. There are times when I want my girls to recall previous answers or use their brains to find the answer in order to be self-sufficient instead of them repeatedly asking the same question over and over. I am trying to teach them that if I don’t answer a question, it is intentional, and not because I didn’t hear them. If I don’t answer, it is because either I just answered the same question recently, or the answer is literally in front of them (like when they ask me what’s for dinner while standing next to boiling pot, or where their book is when it’s literally in arm’s reach.) Obviously, this answer works best with Repeats and Boundary Testing.
You know the answer: An alternative to the Silence answer is the “What Was My Answer Last Time You Asked That?” I want to model patience and help them with memory recall.
I don’t know: Sometimes, I just plain don’t know the answer. Like where rose quartz comes from. Or why the PTA cancelled movie night an hour before it started. Or why some people are homeless. Or why blue is called blue. So, we head to the internet to find the answer. This is the same as good practices at work. Don’t pose like you know the answer but really don’t. Own up to it and look it up to get the answer.
If there isn’t an answer, or the answer is too amorphous for explanation, I turn the question back on them and ask them what they think the answer is. The idea is to either find an authority on the subject, or find a way to answer the question themselves.
Not Right Now: A slight variation, but an important tool to use indicating I’m busy and will answer you when I have time. This builds trust in that I will actually answer, and also sets the boundary protecting my attention when I need to use it.
Giving my girls input is one of the most important things I can do. It’s literally the only way I can actively interact with them besides touch. So I cherish all the ways I do so, and attempt to do so mindfully, presently, and creatively. I want to foster a culture of open communication. I want them to be comfortable in talking to me on any subject, at any stage in their life. To talk about serious things. About silly things. About hard things. About funny things. I am planting seeds I hope to see flourish for many years to come.
Never will I be dismissive, fear-mongering, fake, insincere, assumptive, or ask my kids to believe me simply because I’m their parent. I found so many other better and fun and constructive ways to be a parent. When you see an example of parenting you don’t want to model, how do you find better ways to parent?
The post My Kids Have Questions and ‘Because I Said So’ Isn’t Going to Cut It appeared first on The Good Men Project.
Source: The Good Men Project