Do you remember when you were a kid - and you constantly asked ‘why’? Most children do.
Fun questions about the world, like,
Why is the sky blue?
Why do clouds look like cotton candy?
Why do fish open their mouths underwater?
Why do bees sting?
Or questions about everyday things, like,
Why do I need to take a bath?
Why do I have to eat vegetables?
Why do I need to clean my room?
Why do I have to wear a jacket outside?
Why can’t I eat all my Halloween candy at once?
Why do I have to change my socks/underwear/clothes every day?
The list goes on and on.
I’ve tried to bring reason and logic to my kids’ lives by explaining why in many, many cases. It’s time consuming and sometimes even annoying. But I think it is worth it.
That's based on my own experience. Growing up, I was lucky enough to have explainer parents, not “because I said so” parents. This made me a more independent and responsible adult than I might have been otherwise. I kept asking questions, but as I got older, I always tried to do my own thinking to come up with reasonable answers.
I’m going to call this “why” parenting. I think the Stoic philosophers would heartily approve of this style of relating to kids. Ancient Stoic thinkers believed that we all have a “share of the divine” within us—and that is our reason. It is what provides us our ability to think logically. We can use it to understand our world and our actions in it.
“Why” parenting helps kids—and the adults they grow into—become more rational and willing to use their own internal power of reason to figure things out. Rather than blindly look to authority figures or tradition or habit as the source for all knowledge and action, asking why grows a person’s ability to think things through and decide what’s right. And, I hope, the backbone to stand behind that decision.
So the extra minutes a parent spends explaining things to a kid are valuable. So, too, are those times when adults let kids just try out things to discover the "why" themselves. (Within reason, of course. Nothing too dangerous!)
If I explain that you need to wear a jacket because you’ll be freezing cold outside…. Well, it’s OK if you try going outside for a few minutes and see what it feels like. Or if you want to eat all your Halloween candy at once…. You will likely feel a stomach ache after the first pile. Or if you think your dirty socks are just fine…. Maybe try smelling them closely. That’ll wake up your inner germaphobe!
As kids get older, they understand cause and effect much more readily. But starting young doesn’t hurt. It develops the mind. And that’s really the point of all this philosophy and education stuff, isn’t it?
About The Stoic Mom
I'm Meredith Kunz, a writer, editor, and mom to two daughters in Northern California on a journey to discover how Stoic philosophy and mindful approaches can change a parent's - or any person's - life.