By Joey and Carla Link
November 2, 2022
When kids want to know something, they ask you “why?” This would be especially true of little kids. “Why is the grass green” “Why is the sky blue?” “Why do you stop when the light is red and go when the light is green?” The first 2 questions above are curiosity questions. The 3rd question is a comprehension question, meaning your child is trying to understand something. We suggest you answer the curiosity questions until you can’t bring yourself to do it anymore. Our youngest daughter has the Sanguine temperament and their curiosity radar is sky high. I told her when we got in the car to go someplace, she could ask 3 questions before we got there, then she could ask no more. I got to the store or church with my mind intact and she learned to think before she blurted out a question. A win-win all the way around.
There are “why” questions parents need to take the initiative in asking. In the parenting class “Growing Kids God’s Way” these types of questions were called “the moral reason why”. This, of course is age appropriate. Kids under 5 yrs. do not need or understand long explanations. The shorter and simpler, the better.
There is nothing wrong with explaining how to do a chore and telling your child the reason why he needs to do it is because everyone in the house does them. Is this a moral explanation? “Moral” is “a person’s standards of behavior or beliefs concerning what is and is not acceptable for them to do. If your child believes he should do his/her chores because everyone in the family does, then your explanation was indeed moral.
What do you do when this child continues to give you attitude about doing his chores? When he/she has attitude coming and going or just refuses to do them, he/she has moved “doing his chores” from a “moral reason why” issue to an obedience issue and it should be treated as such.
The problem with explaining the “moral reason why” to your kids is we get so busy things slip between the cracks. In other words, we are sure you tell your kids how to do a task, but have you also at some point given them the moral reason why? When you have more than one child it gets hard to remember what you have told who. When this happens, instead of telling them again, ask your child a question he would know the answer to if you had told him. If he doesn’t have a clear idea of what you are talking about, tell him again what the moral reason why is.
When you give your kids a task to complete, you have a picture in your mind of how it should be done. Do your kids come up with the same picture? The only way they could is if you have specifically showed them how you want it done, and this must be age appropriate.
We often told our kids to “settle down” when they were growing up. This is a neutral statement. You really expect your kids, especially if they are with other kids to stop and define what you mean by settle down? A different way of handling this would be to say, “Stay out of trouble. Give me two examples of what you think I mean by trouble.” Trouble can vary given the circumstance, so having them define it on the spot puts you and your child on the same page.
Instead of telling your son to be kind to his sister, ask him to give you one way he can show kindness to her and why he needs to be kind at all times. If he doesn’t know why, have him sit until he comes up with something. Ask him if he is willing to do what he came up with at that time and to work on being kind to everyone in the family. If he says “no”, he sits until he is willing.
The best way to teach your children the moral reason why is to talk about it as you go about the normal tasks of the day. When you read a book to a young child, ask a couple questions like, “Why do you think the elephant thought he should be kind to the turtle?” When my kids could read for themselves, when I was making dinner or folding laundry, I would ask one of them to come and read to me and then we could talk about ‘the moral reason why’ behind what was happening in the story.
Asking questions will show you what your kids know. One of my daughters was impulsive and always wanted to be first. To work on this, we told her she had to wait to get in the car when we were going somewhere until her siblings got in. I asked her why I wanted her to do this, and she immediately said it was because she pushed her way in to be first and often hurt one of her siblings. When I asked her why this was wrong, she said because it was not fair. That was an acceptable answer for a 1st grader. That is the other thing to keep in mind when teaching your children the moral reason why; it changes, not in definition but in application with age. Keep your explanations as simple as they have the maturity to understand. This means as they age you may need to explain it to them again, using examples that apply to them at that moment in time.
God wants us to define for our kids what they should do and what they should believe in. How are you doing at sharing the moral reason why with your kids?
“Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!”