It’s like fingernails scraping across a blackboard. When the kids were young, and more short-winded, it was cute. It would come out of their mouth and I would get the “ahhh…how sweet” feeling.
But, the older the kids get, the endless sea of words continues to increase. Question after question until I just can’t take it anymore. If you have kids or have spent much time around children, I bet you know exactly what I mean…
Daddy, how old are the mountains? Daddy, how do trees grow? Daddy, what does precocious mean? Why? Why not? Daddy, why does grandpa smell that way? Daddy, why does Darth Vader wear a mask and sound so funny? Daddy, when will I live in heaven? Daddy, what is divorce? Daddy, when will I get to drive?
Face it. Children ask a lot of questions. It is the way they were created. It is what fuels their brain development. It is how they learn about the world around them. When they are young, the questions are almost comical. As they get older, the questions can be complex, hard and even scary to answer. But, frankly, it is better than the alternative – if they didn’t ask questions and if they didn’t learn, they might end up being the lazy bum that still lives in mom and dad’s basement at the age of 32.
What To Do?
But, how do we make it through today without going crazy? How do we deal with the never-ending questions. Well, we can either:
- Ignore the questions
- Demand an end to the questions
- Actually answer the questions
I have tried all three; and, I admit that I am guilty of using the first option way too often. And when answering the questions, I have, more than once, responded with the shortest answer I can think of…even if it wasn’t necessarily an accurate or truthful answer (yes, the man in the moon does like cheese).
What To Do … Really
Now with that off my conscience, I can say that what I should consistently do is something a little more intentional. What is that, you ask? It is a three-step process in which I choose to invest in my children:
- Accept the need for kids to ask questions and explore the world around them (whether they are 2 or 22).
- Answer their questions – Intentionally engage my kids in conversations about their questions.
- Lead them into new questions or realms of discovery that I think may be helpful for them or that they would enjoy. If I am lucky enough to be asked the questions, then I am blessed with an opportunity to influence and to make a difference in their life.
Of course, sometimes I wonder if I should always answer their questions. The answer: No, a child does not always need to be given a 2-hour discourse on the topic at hand. Sometimes a child needs the opportunity to work out the answers on their own or with some simple guidance. And sometimes there is simply not enough time or I am not in a great place for answering questions.
What do I do when there is not enough time, or I am tired or we have simply exhausted the time for questions? I work at simply and calmly telling my kids something like this: “That is a great question! I would love to answer that question for you right now; but, we need to save that question for a little later.”
Sometimes, answering questions is the last thing that I want to do. However, the time invested with my kids now is invaluable and I may never get the same opportunity again. So, I have to take advantage of it.
Oh yeah, what if I don’t have the answers? I can’t be the hero all the time by knowing everything. So, I become humble and willing to learn. Sometimes I accept the fact that I don’t know the answer and then I let my kids in on my little secret. Sometimes I suggest that it would be a great research topic (especially for my older kids). And through the process, I am discovering that it can actually be fun to learn something together with my kids.