If you make up answers your kids will find out because they can Google it with their nintendo DS. Crazy! The result of this onslaught of information is that we have to be pro active and not reactive with our parenting and with our information dissemination. It is sometimes tempting to lie to your kids but the problem is they will find out and more than likely sooner than later. If you lie to your kids or don’t satisfy their curiosity they will begin looking to other sources to find answers. You will lose a golden opportunity to build trust and establish much-needed lines of communication you will benefit from your entire life.
To give your kids direct answers to their questions you need do 4 things.
1. Know your kids –
If you have more than one kid you know that each kid is unique. It never ceases to amaze me that two kids growing up in the same house with the same parents eating the same food can turn out so differently. Pat answers frustrate kids because they know you are just trying to get out of a conversation that you are either to busy for our frustrated with. When you really take the time to know each of your kids their strengths their weaknesses you will know how to answer the questions they are asking.
I know that with my kids one of my kids is very analytical and so when they ask a question I have to be able to point them from A to B to C so that they get what I am trying to explain. Another one of my kids is very passionate and compassionate if I don’t help them understand by using emotional languages I lose them in the process. When you know your kids you can better tailor the answer to fit their personality and cognitive ability.
2. Talk when they are ready not when it’s convenient for you.
Kids are notorious for wanting to talk at the worst time for you. Our kids often want to talk before bed when I am so done for the day. This could be them stalling bed time but it could also be the first time in the day that both of you have slowed down enough to listen to each other. Another place kids like to talk is in the car driving them places. Once you start to see a pattern emerge take note and start to build time into your schedule to allow for those purposeful conversations to take place. Often times I will check in on my youngest son before he falls asleep and ask how his heart is. He many times will say “not good” we talk it out because he loves deeply but is also hurt easily so I have learned that he needs to talk through his hurts so he can forgive and keep his heart soft.
3. Give them as much information as they can handle – satisfy their curiosity.
This is huge. Parents if you don’t satisfy your child’s curiosity something else will. If your kids are asking about a song they their friends are listening to on the radio don’t just tell them not to listen to it listen to it with them and discuss the themes within it. Help your kids learn to process life through a biblical worldview.
I remember when I started to talk to my kids about sex. I start when they are around 5. I explain how boys and girls are different very light very quick. We go out for breakfast and I give them what they can handle at age 5. When my oldest turned 8 I noticed the curiosity level going up so I took him out and I began to go in much more detail about human sexuality he listened for a while then he put his hand up and said “Dad your freaking me out.” His curiosity was more than satisfied.
My goal with communicating truth to my kids is to satisfy their curiosity on one hand and to create curiosity on the other. What I mean is that if our kids are not asking good questions of themselves and others and if we are not providing good answers they will stop growing intellectually and they will begin to accept things to be true that are not in fact true. As a parent I don’t have to know every answer but I do need to teach my kids to love truth and to give them as much truth as they can handle about everything they are curious about until they have had enough.
When it comes to the bible and nature I will say just enough about something that they understand but also that they know there is much more to be had with a bit of digging. Telling your kids the answers is good but showing them how to find the answers for themselves is really the goal of parenting. We should all be aiming to raise, God glorifying, well informed citizens who are lifelong learners. If we do this we have done all we can do as parents and our kids will be equipped to lead others to live in a such a way that our families, churches, nation and world will be better places than they found them.
4. Listen better than you speak.
This is a big one because many times parents feel their role is to tell their kids everything. Sometimes when kids ask a question they are wanting to talk and not looking for answers. I know this sounds antithetical but it’s true. When kids get into their teen years parents have to learn to listen more than they speak because kids need to know you care more than they need to know what you know.
When you listen to your kids you are validating their personhood. Many times we don’t need someone to fix our problems or inform us we need someone to bear with us. To come along side us. The christian faith is not primarily a solution based system but a relational based community. We demonstrate the love of Christ to others by bearing their burdens.
1 Peter 4:11 tells us Bear one anothers burdens and thus fulfill the law of Christ.
We were never meant to struggle through life on our own. We have a savior who took on himself the sins that we have and will commit. He bore on himself our sins. In bearing the burdens of our kids and our family we model to our kids the role Christ played for us as the suffering servant. In disciplining ourselves to listen we allow for the Holy Spirit to prompt us to speak at the right moment when our kids are ready to listen. It is very easy for us to give our kids the wrong answers to questions they are asking us because we are not listening fully to what they are asking. When kids ask something many times there is a question behind the question they are asking if we don’t really learn how to listen we will never satisfy them and our kids will start seeking answers elsewhere.