Children are curious beings. They want to know how and why things work the way that they do. They are information junkies. Their brains crave knowledge, and it’s important that they are in an environment that fosters this natural instinct.
If you are a parent, you know how nearly impossible it is for you to answer (or even respond) to all of your child’s (at times incessant!) questioning. It’s as if they have a well full of them that they can pump out for all eternity!
Some of the questions are simple. We can answer easily from our own knowledge bank, or like I frequently do, consult the all knowing Google for a solution. But in life, there are also many tough inquiries that we must confront.
What happens when you die?
This was a questions my four year old asked me at bedtime six months ago. Talk about an earth shaking question for me. It wasn’t something that could be answered by a search engine, and it wasn’t something I personally could explain with any certainty either.
All I could do was tell him what I believed, along with the disclaimer that everyone has different ideas about what happens when our bodies die. I told him that we were here on earth to help each other. And I told him that he had a purpose, and if he kept searching, he would discover what that purpose was.
I understand that that sounds overly abstruse, particularly for a four year old, but what else are we supposed to give our children? Are we supposed to give them all the answers, and figure their life out for them?
In my experience, that doesn’t work. If you constantly provide the perfect answers to your child’s deep, meaningful questions, what is left? Is there still a reason for them to investigate? Are they still curious about the subject?
Some things in life are easy, and sharing information and experience with our children is one of the most important things we can do for them. But we are fallible beings. We don’t know it all. Our kids desperately need to see our humanness because it lets them know that they don’t have to be perfect. It encourages them to question things and to continue learning, just like their parents are. It allows them the freedom to confide in us when they mess up. And best of all, when our children feel guided by the adults in their lives, opposed to forced toward a certain direction, they can be confident in themselves and about their choices. A confident child becomes a confident adult… one who values him or herself, and values others.
Try to trust your children. They are on the same journey as you. They just want to figure out this crazy world we live in. They want to discover where they fit in. Isn’t that what we all want? How wonderful it would be if parents led their children, loved them, and believed in them, without trying to turn them into miniature versions of themselves.
It’s not always easy. I find myself wanting to answer every question that is thrown at me by my son, but I’m working on resisting that temptation. Sometimes it’s okay to say, “what do you think?” Sometimes the answer you receive will blow you away.
Remember, parents are not the only teachers. Our children teach us as well.
Listen to them. You are bound to learn as much or more than they learn from you.