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But Why?

But Why?

There it is again like an echo bouncing off the kitchen walls. A three-letter word that is never satisfied.

“Why?” my grandson asks. A little hand pats my leg, soft but insistent. Round blue eyes search mine as if the connection somehow might supply what he needs to know.

I’ve heard the question at least a billion times this morning, and as I plop myself down, exhausted by his innocent insistence, I recognize within my heart how often that word comes into my own complexities of life. I hear it when I think of the disappointment of hope crushed. I think of it when circumstances go amuck. I remember its helplessness from a sterile white hospital bed where the heart wrenching question came with tears, “Why?”

Maybe those annoying repetitions of a child are much more than they seem. Maybe they are opportunities for a parent to lay the groundwork for difficult why’s ahead when hands are bigger, questions deeper, and answers impossible. Perhaps the simple quest for why as a child forms the resolve of an adult.

  1. Listen.

When the same why is repeated a bazillion times, for sanity’s sake we default to letting it run like water in our background. It’s impossible to quantify how important it is to be a listener throughout all stages of life. Moms and dads are pat answer gurus, but full attention listening is a skill well worth its discipline.

Proverbs says: “To answer before listening—that is folly and shame.” Proverbs 18:13 (NIV), and James instructs, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,” James 1:19 (NIV).

  1. Value questions.

It is okay to ask questions, but parents don’t need to feel obligated to have an answer for everything. Patronized children can become disillusioned adults. Repeat their question back to them. Encourage them to ask it in another way.

It’s actually helpful for children to understand we don’t know all the answers, and some things we just can’t know. God doesn’t give adults all the information we want and learning to be content without all the answers builds trust in a knowing God.

  1. Don’t spiritualize with false claims or promises.

One of the most detrimental Christian parenting notions is it’s okay to promise what we can’t control in order to make our children feel better. If Scripture doesn’t back it up, we shouldn’t be handing it out. To promise with the shortsighted eyes of making someone feel less pain regardless of what God’s word says lays a foundation of disillusionment.

Let’s be honest. Our years are made up with whys. Adults learn to internalize most of them, but they continue real and demanding all throughout life. Perhaps in God’s ears, we often still sound like the persistent child with the repetitive why.

The next time you feel that tug at your hand or the pat on your leg and a little voice asks, “Why?” stop, get down eye to eye, and smile. How you respond will encourage curiosity, build trust, and bestow value. You are in a position to lay the footing for a child to walk a lifetime of unknowns on solid ground.

By: Sylvia Schroeder serves as Women’s Care Coordinator at Avant Ministries. Mom to four, grandma to 14, and wife to her one and only love, she enjoys writing about all of them. Find her blog at When the House is Quiet. Like her Facebook page or follow her on twitter.

Join us at for our parenting blog each Monday-Friday and for info about the Just 18 Summers novel.

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