If you’re a dad, are around kids, or vaguely recall seeing a lot of really short people running around, you have inevitably heard a child ask, “Why?” Just this morning I had to explain to my three-year-old why she couldn’t have candy for breakfast. She’s still not convinced.
As a father of three, I feel like everything I tell my kids is followed by the question, “Why?” This inquisitive nature is not exclusive to children, though. This “why” mentality is something we all deal with on a daily basis.
As parents, it is imperative that we teach our children the difference between right and wrong. We want them to know what things are culturally acceptable and what things are frowned upon.
Parenting is a lot like golf. If you’ve ever watched it on television, it looks incredibly easy. It’s only when you decide to play for yourself that you discover it’s quite the opposite. Everything you thought you had learned watching the Golf Channel goes out the window.
While I’m not the most experienced golfer, I know that the object is to get your ball into a hole, but not just any hole. If you tee off on hole number two, you must get your ball into the cup on the second green.
Parenting is similar in that we have a particular direction in which we are aiming. It doesn’t matter whether you realize it or not; you are aiming your children towards something. Just as the golfer intentionally moves his ball towards the green, we are prodding our kids towards something.
In which direction should we be prodding our children?
I recently overheard a conversation between two parents. One said to the other that he was doing the best he could to raise good kids. I’m not faulting him for saying that. I’ve said similar things more than once. It seems like that would be our job as a parent, right?
But is raising “good kids” the goal? I’m aware that this is semantics to a point, but the answer, in short, is no. Raising good kids is a waste of time. Having good kids should be a byproduct of raising great adults.
We must be careful that we do not simply tell our kids what to do. If we want to raise great adults, we have to put in a little more effort that just saying, “Don’t do that because I said so.” With every instruction we give, there is the opportunity to help our children understand our thinking and the benefit to them in obeying us.
As a Christian, I explain to my children how I do my best to obey God. I love Him because He loved me first. He’s given us everything, and all he asks is for us to give back a little of what he’s given.
He’s also asked that children obey their parents. I tell my kids that not only did God love them first, but so did I. I had loved them before they knew what love was. Because I love them, I have their best interest at heart – just as God does for us.
The reason we have rules as a family is because those rules are good for them. They are not some arbitrary list that we made up. The decisions and rules we make as parents will help shape the adults they one day become.
The “why” is important. The “why”, in my opinion, is the key to raising a great adult.
At some point, your children will be old enough to make their decisions. Their choices will be beyond your control. If all we ever told them was to obey because we said so, then once they become too old to discipline, your plan becomes useless.
As parents, we should focus more on teaching our kids how to think instead of what to think. We must be careful not to insist on a pattern of behavior without first explaining the reasons behind our insistence.
This does not mean that you must stop and explain every decision and choice that you make with your children, but if the goal truly is to “raise up a child in the way he should go” then we must focus more on teaching them how to think instead of telling them what to think.
What do you think? Is the “why” really that important? Have you seen a difference between raising good kids and great adults?
Photo: Flickr/ Nathan Congleton