If I had to pick just two values that I want to instill in my children, they would be kindness and curiosity. I feel that those two, when used together, have the potential to make the world a better place.
I want my children to want to care for others. I want them to feel compassion for people and animals, and I want them to get genuine pleasure and satisfaction out of helping and doing the right thing. I also believe that a great deal of kindness evolves from improved understanding. That leads me straight to Curiosity.
I want my children to have an insatiable curiosity. I want them to be curious about nature, about their communities, their country, the world and the universe. I want them to ask why frogs can survive under the mud in winter, and why some people hurt each other. I want them to ask why some people have different coloured skin, and why the stars twinkle. I want them to ask why so many people don’t have enough food, and I want them to ask how babies are made. I want them to ask the hard questions, and I want to help them find the best possible answers.
My family is so fortunate to live in a time and place where we are encouraged to ask questions. I feel that when governments, parents, schools or religions remove a child’s right or ability to seek knowledge and understanding, and demand that they accept “that’s just the way it is,” it takes away a piece of what makes them human. If children are forced to accept historical norms or traditions, if they are not permitted to question authority, what possible contribution can they make to the creation of a better, more compassionate world?
Why can ask a scientific question (Why does the earth go around the sun?), and it can ask a political question (Why does our government need taxes?). Why can ask a religious question (Why do we believe what we believe?), and it can even ask an artistic question (Why does that music inspire me?). It doesn’t matter, so long as people keep asking questions, and finding satisfactory answers. I consider myself a scientist, and I feel it is a lifestyle, rather than an occupation.
The Three “Whys”
On a bit of a lighter note, let’s talk about the uses of the word “Why?”
There are three types of “Why?” Two of these will drive you absolutely up the wall. The third is the good one.
1. The Perpetual “Why?”
- Have a kid under 5? You know this one. A perfectly reasonable question about why something is the way it is, turns into an incessant string of “Whys.”
- At this point, the child is not listening for answers anymore, they are enjoying your increasingly exasperated attempts to explain, and you can often identify this by a spreading grin and/or giggles.
- It may be avoided by enabling children to find answers on their own.
- A friend of mine recently pointed out to me the difference between this Why, and the Inquisitive Why. When we put rules in place, about bedtimes, food or banister climbing, we make it very clear why they exist. We explain that the body needs sleep to stay healthy, and how a 20 foot fall from the banister would feel less than pleasant. In this case, even though they fully understand why ice cream is not an acceptable substitute for dinner, kids will argue the point because they don’t like your answer.
- This sounds less like “Why?” and more like “WHYYYYYYYYYYYYY?????” with a nasal tone.
- I have NOT figured out how to avoid this one. Our clear explanations seem to be failing. Please tell me if you have a solution. That said, if rules are unexplained, that’s a different story. I fully believe that children have a right to know initially why rules exist.
- This is the good one. Children are curious about their world. They are born scientists. Their patience in observing and their ability to ask important questions can be truly inspiring.
- This one comes from exposing children to new situations and ideas.
- I encourage this Why as much as possible. Children need opportunities to explore and observe, to question and to seek answers. However, you do not need to supply a constant stream of answers to questions. It’s perfectly alright to admit you do not understand something, but give them the resources to find the answers.
What difficult questions have your children been asking?
How did you deal with it?
I’d love to hear from you 🙂