Why is the sky blue?
Why do the flowers bloom?
Why when I’m whiny and mad, do you send me to my room?
Why, oh why ask why so much ?
Why fault someone who does?
Today’s Mental Moment …
is about the dreaded why.
Why we don’t like it and why we should consider the value of why before discounting it, and the people who are always wanting to know why.
I am a person of many questions. How, where, when, why. The first three are easy enough usually but the last, the why has gotten me into trouble.
I am sure I am not the only one, as we were all children once, and children are notorious for asking why?
As I go along day-to-day, in my interactions with others or in trying to learn something new, if I am unable to understand why this than that, or why someone hung up on me, or why I feel what I feel, why my child acts out, why, why, why, I am not able to function on a the same level as I do when I understand not just how, but why.
I got the dreaded
Because I said so!
as a child (not often though) as I am sure many of you did, and even many of you and occasionally I too, still do.
It used to piss me off when I was told to do something and when I asked why, was given that answer. That does not explain anything to me. Except in the case of cleaning the toilets or something like that, because I said so, is another way of saying …
Because I don’t's want to
without saying it and presenting it is a way of having absolute power, your word is law and more pointedly,
I don’t really know why, but I don’t want you to know I don’t know
it’s a cycle perpetuated by the view of children as less than capable of understanding, the do not question my authority type of thinking, and forgetting they will one day be the grown ups being asked why.
I am not sure why it is such a mystery, or widely unacceptable it seems, children ask why. Sometimes exasperating a parent to the point of throwing their hands up in the air because they do not really know the answers or because, especially in the case of smallish type offspring, it never ends. Somewhere they got it in their head, it isn’t right to admit to your children you don’t know why.
Or to admit it to anyone really. What is the big deal about saying, I don’t know?
Besides the exceptional case of being asked the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow, or when pointedly told, admitting you don’t know is a matter of life or death of course.
In matters of life or death, it is a good rule of thumb to answer with a question, there-by not admitting you don’t know but buying yourself time to figure out the answer, or give the other one the opportunity to slip and admit they don’t know, thus putting the life and death weight of the matter back on them.
I can’t really think of too many examples like that. Just saying.
So back to the child who asks why and gets the answer
because I said so
It is a good bet, if that is the answer they get more often than not they will eventually stop questioning, giving the parent the impression they finally get it and are obedient without question.
That folks, is not the desirable outcome we think it might be. Why?
If a child is always asking why, they are not being naughty and the why presents an opportunity for the parent to teach their child not just order them around.
It is the mature of a child to be curious and as they grow and understand the ways of the world, if they understand the whys of the world, they are more able to adapt and change rather than be in a narrow frame of mind. If the answer to why is because I said so, well there isn’t much room for change or improvement because the next obvious question, which most likely has said child in a corner, their room of some other form of punishment.
The job of a parent is to teach their child, help them grow, guide them, and get them ready to be independent productive members of society. The key word being teach.
I have always let my children ask why. I don;t always succeed in staying away from because I said so. If I tell them to do something and they want to know why, I don’t even blink, or even really realize it sometimes, and I offer them a reason. I am of the mind they are not questioning me, they are wanting to understand the reason the thing they are told or asked to do is necessary.
I probably am able to not even flinch because I ask why all the time.
It has been pointed out to me more than once, I don’t have to give them a reason why, they should just do it.
I do not get this.
The person who asks why is not necessarily questioning you, or challenging your knowledge or authority, they maybe just want to know why what the thing is.
If we do not give our children the answers of the whys they ask, then when they are on their own, they are doing things for reasons they know not, not taking the time to consider there might be a better way, able to change what they do, because there is no context to fit it into to consider it from.
We limit them to a smaller world and we have lost sight of the job of parenting. We also give the impression asking why is not a good thing and a child will grow into an adult and stop asking why.
The good thing about asking why is it shows an interest, a curiosity in our existence and provides tools to change when change is desired or necessary.
Somewhere the goal of parenting was forgotten in the my word is law and don’t question my authority, philosophy, which in a nutshell are key factors on perpetuating a society of drones.
That was a little harsh. Mostly because many of us do what our parents did, who did what their parents did, and so on back to the cave days when they had more than good reason to demand obedience without question. Because it was a matter of life and death.
This goes back to doing things without knowing why we do them that way or understanding the consequences of expecting obedience without question.
Let me throw out some examples to show you what I mean. Something easy and easy to believe a parent, distracted by other things or just wanting their child to do it and be done with it would give the pat answer of “because I said so.”
Parent: Please go wash your hands.
Parent : Because I said so that’s why.
Fast forward 15 years and the child is grown and going out into the world on their own. It comes time where all their life their mother would tell them to wash their hands, before eating for example, and the child, given the choice of washing or not washing, skips the washing because mom isn’t here to enforce it. They may even feel a bit of rebelliousness and think they are getting away with something and that’ll show mom, it will. Then when they have kids, they may think telling their kids to wash their hands is art of parenting (which it really is) but because they were never told why, when their child asks the inevitable “why?” they say… yup you got it. And so life goes on with kids washing their hands and when they get away from the enforcer, they don’t.
Parent: Please go wash your hands.
Parent: because you were outside playing and they are dirty, and if you eat with dirty hands you may get sick. (or however you represent it so the child understands)
Fast forward 15 years, and in the same situation as above example and the child, on the fence about washing or not washing chooses to wash their hands because not only so they know why they are doing it, they know what will happen if they don’t.
hmmmmm.. given the two scenarios, which one is the ideal?
Knowing why is also more conducive to understanding consequences and lends more toward thinking about the things we do, don’t you think?
the philosophy of doing without reason more than obedience, doing without someone to enforce obedience is not likely. Why inspires, invites creativity and change.
I will bet the person who invented the hand sanitizer gels did so because they knew why clean hands are important.
The parent child scenario is by far the easiest way to illustrate the importance of asking why, and not discounting why.
There are undoubtedly those who ask why more than others, because we aren’t all the same, and we also learn differently. Parenting is a very common place to fall in to the trap of not answering, and being human, even the best parents who get the concept have their off days where “because I said so” is just the easiest thing to say because you are tired or …whatever a myriad of reasons.
But it is also the place we make a difference between children who grow to independent, productive members of society, or need constant supervision to ensure they don’t pick their nose and eat it…with dirty hands too. Ok that was gross but it made the point didn’t it?
Its is natural for us to be curious about a lot of things and natural to question. There is nothing wrong with not knowing the answer, even if you are a parent, more importantly, admitting you don’t know. If we quash a child’s natural curiosity, then they grow up to do things by rote, without knowing why, and cease to question, when we don’t question, we don’t learn, and on it goes.
Adults who ask why are often mistaken for being distrustful. A whole big snowball not necessary or of helpful nature in society. For if you think someone asks you why because they are questioning your motives then you are most likely going to approach them with a defensive mind-set.
Knowing why, is more inline with the idea of free will because you can reason and make a choice (informed) how to act and live. Not knowing why, the free will is still there, we make the choice based on the need to assert independence and without the reasoning behind it, the result is one of not so nice consequences.
Can you imagine in the example above, (used for its simplicity but not all that believable in the actual example because hand washing is stressed in enough places, at some point the reason why is revealed), if all the kids who we told “because I said so” stopped washing their hands because they didn’t have to anymore?
Why is important.
To Your Mental State, whatever it may be,
Like this Mental Moment? There is a whole month of Mental Moments in one great book A Month of Mental Moments by Liz Campbell (that’s me). Just like the blog only bookier and not the blog, ya know?
Get your digital copy for less than a cup of coffee, or a paperback worthy of toilet reading for more than a cup of coffee, exclusively at Redmund Productions Book Store. I blog for free but I gotta eat. May be the best $3 you ever spent, you really want to miss out on the possiblity? Just saying.
(button to Kindle Version. Also available in epub, pdf, and paperback, just look for the links in the book store. )