Kids ask so many questions. Sometimes the sheer number can push us to the point of breaking where we end up shouting, “Because I said so!!” Do we have to answer every question they ask? Are some kids’ questions qualitatively different than others?
It’s important to understand the different reasons why kids ask questions. It’s also important for Christian parents to use their responses as an opportunity to build trust.
Why kids ask questions
Kids ask so many questions because they are curious
Kids naturally have a lot of questions. After all, they have a lot to learn! Many of these questions start with the word “why.” When young children ask this, assume it is out of curiosity. Make the time to answer or investigate the answer together.
If you simply don’t have the time to investigate at the time the question is asked, or if you have a particularly inquisitive child, you can employ a “look it up” notebook. In the notebook, you or your child can record the questions that come up during the day and then you can set aside time later to uncover the answers together. Brushing off their inquiries will not only squelch their curiosity but can also create a situation where you are no longer viewed as a resource for your children.
Kids ask questions to challenge your authority
Some kids ask questions, not because they are curious, but because they are challenging you. These controlling children like the feeling of power that comes from pushing their parents’ buttons. Asking “why” in response to an instruction or command may be a big, red, flashing button for you – one that is fun to push. If your child is prone to controlling behaviors, the “why” isn’t about getting answers anyway. It’s about getting power. Explaining yourself and your actions will only provide more material for debate. You can respond in a non-emotional way with a calm but firm response (such as, “You have all the information you need to obey” or “I’d be happy to talk about this further after you do as you are told”).
Kids ask so many questions to stall or avoid
If you are very purposeful about your parenting, you probably have set rules (maybe even posted rules) that outline your expectations for behavior. If you consistently enforce these rules, your kids know them. They may claim ignorance when it is convenient for them to delay obedience or to avoid something they don’t want to do, but you know that they know. And they know that you know that they know. For children who are asking questions motivated by stalling or avoiding, you can say something like: “You already know the answer to that question, but we can talk more about it after you have done as you are told.”
Answer to build trust
One of the main goals of parenting is to create an environment in which our children can learn about their Lord and their relationship to a holy and perfect God. We are paltry examples of our heavenly Father, but in His infinite wisdom, He has given us the task of representing His relationship with His children in our relationship with our children.
As adults, we may ask God “why?” over and over again. He does not tire of listening to us, but He doesn’t always answer either. Sometimes, He asks us to trust that the puzzle of our life is going to end up beautiful, even if we can’t turn over all of the pieces right now. As Christian parents, we can help our children to learn to trust us and thereby God, without always having the answer to every question.
Here are some trust-building scripts that you can employ when you may not be able to answer your kids’ questions to their satisfaction.
With regard to a personal/sensitive matter: “I understand that you would like to know more about it, but this is all I can tell you right now. You can trust me -I will tell you everything you need to know.”
When a child is repeating anxiety-driven questions: “I think we have already gone over this. Would it help if I wrote the answers down? I hope you know that I would never make a decision that would put you or our family at risk. You can trust me. Is there something we can do to take your mind off of it?”
When you just don’t know: “I don’t have an answer for you right now. I wish I did. But what I do know is that I am trusting God to give me the answer in His time. You can trust Him too.”
These responses validate the child’s question while simultaneously encouraging trust – even if the question cannot be answered. As Christian parents we can pray that this ability to trust without all the answers can someday be transferred to God. It is the very foundation of faith.