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Renewing Minds and Parenting

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By MaryAnn (a Christian Mother in our community)

Romans 12: 2: Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.

When my sitter asked me if I had read Dobson’s The Difficult Child, I had a sense where she was headed. Dobson’s book includes a checklist to rate your child from something like easy, compliant to mother killer. My sitter followed her question with a statement that she had answered, “Yes” to every prompt – putting my son in the “mother killer” category. He was “difficult” – and that set me on a course to seek wisdom in how to parent him. I remember reading another book that was more loving toward “difficult” children. The author preferred a gentler, more understanding label, “intense” children. And I embraced a deeper sympathy and understanding for our son’s intensity after reading that book.

Our journey to seek wise parental advice included many books and sensible, older moms, as well as courses at our church and Fourth Presbyterian. We chewed on various insights, spitting out the gristle.

One focal point became parenting my children’s minds. Emphasis on parenting a child’s heart abounds. For some reason, reaching minds resonated, at that time, a bit more. The wisest man in the Old Testament tells us that the beginning of wisdom is fear of the Lord. In awe of God and on our knees we tried to learn.

Our goals for our sons were to raise Biblical husbands, dads, sons, servants, and citizens. How do I do that? How do I influence them to make wise decisions? How do I inspire them to have a growth mindset, like Kuzco in The Emperor’s New Groove? – “Bring it on.”   Research clearly shows that kids raised with a growth mindset are much more likely to succeed.  https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-secret-to-raising-smart-kids1/

I wanted our sons to have growth mindsets spiritually, intellectually, and emotionally. In reading and researching I found that how I interacted with our sons had a significant impact on whether they developed a fixed or growth mindset. When I asked questions and focused on encouraging my children to figure things out for themselves I supported emotional development and a love of learning. So, that became our parenting style. And in showing more respect and asking more questions, discipline followed naturally. Because we had a warm, loving relationship, there was less opposition, less defiance, less behavioral problems. And it felt more like what I could see Jesus doing. I couldn’t picture Jesus yelling at a kid or spanking. I could envision Him telling stories and asking questions. That felt right.

When my children were young I was involved in women’s ministry at The Falls Church. I asked the director, Ruth Brock, to recommend a parenting book for women to study. She pulled a book off her shelf and smiled – Ross Campbell’s How to Really Love Your Child – an old book even then – but still lovely. How to Talk so Kids Will Listen, and Listen so Kids Will Talk (a secular book) also heavily influenced our parenting. We kept it on our nightstand and periodically revisited it.

Our “intense” child grew so sick that I ended up home schooling him for medical reasons. By God’s grace, however, he was healed and grew to be a Biblical man that blesses us. Turns out, his worldly struggle was food intolerance (gluten, etc.) Former anxiety and irritability were rooted in reactions to foods. Who knew?

Our son’s physical healing commenced soon after we asked for James 5:14-16 deacon prayer. Steve King gathered a few deacons between services to pray with our son. Shortly thereafter, God gave us an appointment with an internist that found gluten and other food antibodies – non-celiac intolerance which was practically unheard of back then. Today, the physical and mental effects of non-celiac gluten intolerance are well documented: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4389040/

On many levels God renewed all of our minds.

There’s room for a lot of grace and love with our children. Discipline, I am convinced, is all about our relationship. Adopting parenting tools from parents I respected and from rich books, I learned to ask my children how they would solve a problem or what they needed to do to make things right. Their thinking and answers often surprised and delighted me. I drafted chore lists, instead of nagging, offered to teach them something by saying, “I think you are old enough to learn how to….” I let them feel the natural consequences of choices, when appropriate.

Dr. Knecht at McLean Presbyterian taught the best parenting class my husband and I ever took.   Knecht gave an example that became a theme for me. He offered a hypothetical of a child that kept getting out of bed, instead of going to sleep. Knecht said that you might try telling your son or daughter to go to bed and then turn on your heels and leave – leaving them with the decision, but also with any negative feelings if they disobey. Too often, I had felt that I needed to “win,” that I needed my son to obey, and when he didn’t I was frustrated. But, that didn’t allow him to own his error. Knecht’s insight helped me keep the natural consequences of right and wrong, age appropriate decisions, in my children’s courts. At 3 children do not get to decide what time they will go to bed or whether to brush their teeth. But, whether they choose peas or broccoli, elect listening to a book or drawing, they are learning to think and make decisions that will help them eventually launch.

You have probably heard the secular proverb of the battle between the sun and the wind. They challenge each other to see which can coax a man to take his coat off. The wind blows and blows, but the man only wraps tighter in his coat. Then, the sun tries, warming him with rays. The man takes his coat off.

Basking in our “Son” – how He shows us to love and how He disciplines us – offers great insight into parenting. Renewing our minds and helping our children renew theirs, in the warmth of scripture, with fear of the Lord, and in prayerful humility, may be the pattern for parenting that helps us most.

Other scriptures on the mind:

Ephesians 4:23 And be renewed in the spirit of your mind.

Colossians 3:2 Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.

Mark 12:30  “And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.” This is the first commandment.

Isaiah 26:3 You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.

Luke 12:29 And do not seek what you should eat or what you should drink, nor have an anxious mind.

-Written and posted with permission from our son. 🙂

Article: 5 Bible Verses that will make you Stronger as a Mom

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By Tayrina Gonzalez via His Purpose In Me

For some women the month of May it is a celebration for others it is a challenge. However, there is a treasure in the word of God for all those mothers who every day need a reminder and encouragement to continue their important work in the earth.  But, being a mother or not, I want you to treasure these 5 bible verses that will make you stronger as a mom.

1 Corinthians 1:27 
But God has selected [for His purpose] the foolish things of the world to shame the wise [revealing their ignorance], and God has selected [for His purpose] the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong [revealing their frailty].

With this verse I’m not saying you are foolish, I’m saying God chose you with a purpose; to manifest His Glory in your life.  God uses you as woman and as a mother to reveal His Glory through your life.

Genesis 3:20 The man named his wife Eve (life spring, life giver), because she was the mother of all the living.

We should feel blessed and that we carry a great purpose of God in us.  Eve is the name for the first woman that means: woman and mother of all the living.  Eve was the first woman, the first wife, the most beautiful… with a big purpose “to be the mother of all living”.  We were created to bring life!

John 15:13 No one has greater love [nor stronger commitment] than to lay down his own life for his friends.

In this verse we can see Jesus giving his life for us. Such is his love and commitment to the Father first and then to us. That same love is manifested in the heart of a mother, who is committed.  So if for some time you felt as if you were giving your life for your children and have been from the first day committed to their welfare, feel blessed because you have the strength in you to carry out that task.

2 Corinthians 12:10 
So I am well pleased with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, and with difficulties, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak [in human strength], then I am strong [truly able, truly powerful, truly drawing from God’s strength].

There is no better way to renew our strength than to declare ourselves strong in God. For the task of being mothers, wives, businesswomen among others, we need to take the strength of God to efficiently fulfill each task.  Declare yourself strong in Christ!

Proverbs 31:10 An excellent woman [one who is spiritual, capable, intelligent, and virtuous], who is he who can find her? Her value is more precious than jewels and her worth is far above rubies or pearls.

This is one of my favorites verses, because it shows us the way of the wise woman, which is spiritual.  A woman who is spiritual is because takes her time to spend time with the Lord, asking for guidance and direction.  You are valuable more than jewels, rubies and pearls.  That value comes from the Lord, don’t forget it!

What will make you stronger? 

  • Remember that you have a purpose.
  • Remember you was created to give life.
  • Remember your love and commitment is example for Jesus loves for us.
  • Remember to declare your are strong in the Lord.
  • Remember to spend time with God. 
  • Remember you are valuable.

Article: How to Not Ruin Your Own Mother’s Day

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By Sara Wallace Via Desiring God

I’ll never forget the first time we took the whole family out for Mexican food. We had four little men ages 6 and younger, and I was pregnant with number five. (Seriously, what were we thinking?)

The service was unusually slow, so the kids munched on stale raisins from the diaper bag. After an hour one kid had fallen out of his seat and had a bruise to prove it. One had spilled water all over the table; another had choked on a tortilla chip and thrown up on his plate. And the food still hadn’t come. When it finally arrived our order was all wrong. All in all, not an unusual experience for a young family trying to have a meal out.

Except . . . it was Mother’s Day.

And every little inconvenience, every spill, every fuss, and whine weighed extra on my heart. This was Mother’s Day. My day. The day my husband had thoughtfully set aside for me to enjoy being queen for a day. But I didn’t feel like a queen. I felt like a worn-out mommy.

This Mother’s Day, thousands of moms will be disappointed because the day didn’t turn out the way they expected. But there is hope. There’s a way to have a disappointment-proof Mother’s Day. And it starts with us.

Day for Compensation

First, let’s back up a little. Where does our disappointment come from? There’s a popular meme floating around Facebook that describes a mom’s job. It says something like: “I’m a chef, chauffer, nurse, counselor, maid . . .” And the point is always, “Don’t tell ME I don’t have a job. I’m a MOM.”

I used to find these lists amusing and affirming. Now I think they can be damaging. Without realizing it, we start to measure our worth by these lists. And we want others to notice and show appreciation. But this only makes us defensive and bitter. How can anyone ever thank us enough? No Mother’s Day card, no fancy brunch, and no bouquet is enough to repay us for these jobs.

If we fixate on being appreciated, we’ll always be let down. A day of celebration becomes a day of compensation. It’s our chance to get a little payback. “Finally,” we think. “The kids will recognize all I do around here.” And yes, it is good and right to honor mothers. It’s right to say, “Thank you for all you do.” But if our identity is tied to how well we’re appreciated, we’re setting ourselves up for disappointment.

Day for an Identity Check

The problem with the “mom job” description is that it boils down my worth to the sum of my to-do lists. It might make me feel more important for a little while, but soon I’m empty again.

The solution is to remember who I am, not what I do. As a Christian woman, my identity is united with Jesus Christ—his sinless life and perfect righteousness (2 Cor. 5:21). The beauty about finding my identity in Jesus is that I can stop obsessing about my identity altogether. It’s not about who I am. It’s about who he is. Jen Wilkin reminds us:

As long as we keep the emphasis on us instead of on a higher vision, we will take small comfort from discussions of identity. Our primary problem as Christian women is not that we lack self-worth, not that we lack a sense of significance or purpose. It’s that we lack awe.

Do you want to have an incredible Mother’s Day? Stand in awe of the One who made you a mother. Let each sticky kiss and messy card remind you of a few things about God: Every good gift is from the Father of lights (James 1:17). God’s strength is perfected in weak moms (2 Corinthians 12:9). He gives us the wisdom we so desperately need (James 1:5).

Now those are reasons to celebrate.

Day for Celebration

This outward, God-centered focus knocks our expectations for Mother’s Day back into place. It relieves the pressure of expecting a day that lives up to our valuation of motherhood. This day is about God’s faithfulness, not mine. Motherhood isn’t a job I’ve been hired for. It’s a calling I’ve been entrusted with. This turns a day of compensation into one of true celebration.

This Mother’s Day, I’m going to step down off the pedestal my kids so sweetly and clumsily set up for me, and celebrate alongside them. My value is in Christ, not in this day. So give me the breakfast in bed and all the spills that go with it. I want every messy reminder that God made me a mom.

Except for the restaurant experience. I can wait a few more years for that.

Come Alongside the Refuge-seekers

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By Laura Moore

“…A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
‘Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!’ cries she
With silent lips. ‘Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!'”

Most people do not know these words written at the base of our beloved Statue of Liberty, myself included until recently. Her unabashed, wide-open welcome is challenging to understand, let alone accept. Read those words again. She boldly stands as a beacon for the “tempest-tost”, those seeking refuge from lands of oppression. It sounds a lot like Jesus…who was Himself a refugee (Matthew 2:14). He says, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest…rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28, 29). 

A refuge-seeker, or refugee, means “someone who flees for safety.” Any time I hear “refuge” I think of the verse, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in times of trouble” (Psalm 46:1). In fact, one of God’s names is Machseh, “Refuge” in Hebrew. Now we’re touching on something dear to God’s heart–so dear that it’s part of His character and identity.

So you ask, “How can I help refugees when I’m a busy mom?” The same question I asked myself. Answer: befriend a refugee family! For us, I thought, “We already go out to have play-dates with other kids, so why not visit a new family instead?” Then we jumped right in with both feet.

We got connected with a family from Afghanistan that lives just ten minutes from our apartment. Before visiting, I contacted the head of the family, Mr. N., on the phone and introduced myself, my family, and then asked if we could stop by for a visit. He told us we would be “most welcome”, even the two kids I was bringing in tow. We met him in the parking lot then walked up to their apartment where we met his wife and two children. Upon entering and then removing our shoes, I said, “Salam Alaikum” (“Peace be unto you” in Arabic) to Mrs. N. because I knew the family was Muslim, and she repeated it back to me with a smile. We both had a baby in 2016, and we both have one boy and one girl. It is harder to get to know her because she is just beginning to learn English. Our visit mostly consisted of dialoging with Mr. N. and corralling my kids. My oldest child had a challenging time because there were no toys in their apartment, and it is very bare.

This sweet family just arrived in the USA less than one month ago. They have their basic needs met, but have no “extras” that my family is accustomed to and often takes for granted. Like toys. Or a car. Or a fully-stocked kitchen. Or neighbors that speak my language. Or family close-by. Or a job or two. Or spending-money. Or a closet full of clothes, shoes, and accessories. Or a college degree that is recognized by the country I live in. Or a community where I feel welcomed into and accepted by…like Kindred. Other moms who are in the in the trenches with me. My new friend, Mrs. N., is admittedly lonely. She is so very far away from her family and friends that constantly “did life together” and misses them terribly. Their daughter is accustomed to dozens of cousins running around to play with. It is a difficult adjustment for each member of this family. Mr. N. was working with the UN in Kabul but was facing threats from those who oppose their work and endured physical abuse by them. He left a well-respected, much-needed, good job behind because he wanted to protect his family. Thus how they became “refuge-seekers”, fleeing their homeland to a safer place, a place of refuge.

Doesn’t this sound a lot like the spiritual life? If God is our Machseh, He is our place of safety–where we run to in times of trouble or fear, or just simply when we need a hiding place. That makes me a refugee. Therefore, I can come alongside someone who is a political/legal refugee as a friend and support. Maybe somewhere along the way I will get the chance to tell them about the One in whom I am seeking refuge–my Provider, Helper, Friend. All the things Jesus is to me I can seek to replicate and be a dim reflection of Him in the life of others. All it takes is “coming alongside.” The phrase, “to come alongside” harkens back to the ancient world when a broken-down ship was only able to come into harbor when accompanied and helped by another vessel.

There are many ways to serve, but this is one way to help provide refuge for a refuge-seeker that flows with the natural rhythms of family-life. Trading a playdate, or time spent with people you know, for a chance to get to know a new friend and have a family visit. You would be “most welcome”, to quote my new friend.

Remember Lady Liberty? She welcomes with open arms, inviting the stranger in, providing a safe harbor for the weary and vulnerable. Jesus welcomes me with open arms every time I run to Him. A small way I can be a “little light” is to imitate His hospitality and welcome a stranger, a refugee family practically in my neighborhood. It might take some small sacrifices, some awkward moments, some creativity and thoughtfulness. But that’s where grace comes in. His grace flows in and through me when I’m His refugee, finding my safe-place in Him. “I have strength for all things in the One strengthening me” (Philippians 4:13).

Article: Moms Need Theology Too

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By Christina Fox via Desiring God

What’s the first thing you think of when you hear the word theology?

Do you think of unpronounceable words, or dusty books from centuries ago, or perhaps lengthy sermons? If you had to choose between studying theology and reading a book on practical tips for your daily life, which would you choose?

For many of us moms, the mere thought of studying theology seems way beyond what our daily life can handle. We might think, At this stage in my life, I can’t learn theology. My life is consumed and overwhelmed with the daily duties of motherhood. Perhaps we think that our time might be better spent reading up on ways to help our child sleep, or on the best nutritional choices for our growing teen, or on how to keep our preschooler from throwing a tantrum in the middle of the checkout lane.

But the truth is we desperately need theology for all our daily duties of motherhood. We need theology for bedtime battles, feeding worries, the grocery store, and everything else in between.

Just What Is Theology?

The word theology comes from the Greek words theos (God) and logos (word or body of knowledge). Theology is the body of knowledge about God, or put simply, the study of God. As Christians, we should desire to know all we can about God. After all, he is our Maker, Creator, Sustainer, and Savior.

But learning theology is just the first step. We also have to apply it. And when theology intersects with our daily lives, we find that it isn’t just for seminary professors, but for all of us.

What we believe about God, who he is, what he has done, and who we are in light of all that, isn’t just for mere study and debate. Words like imputation, justification, atonement, and election affect the very course of our lives day in and day out. They mold who we are.

  • When your child is sick and the doctors don’t know why, so they order more and more tests, it’s your theology that tells you that God is in sovereign control of all things. It tells you that God is not asleep — that he hasn’t forgotten you (Psalms 121:3–4). Everything is under his control, and he is not surprised by any of your circumstances. Your theology reminds you in that moment that his intentions for you are good, and that he is working all things out for your good and his glory (Romans 8:28).
  • When you speak harshly in anger to your child, it’s your theology that reminds you that Jesus came to die for those very sins. It tells you that Jesus lived a perfect life, was never unkind, always loving, and that his righteousness has been credited to you in being joined to him by faith (2 Corinthians 5:21). It tells you that he is at work in you even now, leading you to repentance and refining the work that he began in you (Philippians 1:6).
  • When your meaning becomes merged with your role as mother, it’s your theology that reminds you that your identity is found in Christ. It’s not found in how successful you are as a mother, or in how well behaved your child is, or in how neat and clean you keep your home (Psalms 20:7–8). Your meaning, purpose, significance, and identity is grounded in who you are as a redeemed and adopted child of God (John 1:12).
  • When you are drop-dead tired and your child is sick and your husband is out of town for work and you don’t think you can make it until he returns, it is your theology that tells you that God will provide you with the grace you need in the moment (1 Corinthians 10:13). It is your theology that reminds you that you can’t do life on your own and that, without Jesus, you can do nothing (John 15:5). It tells you that your rest and hope is found in Christ alone and that you can trust him to sustain you.

Real Hope, Real Wisdom, Real Peace

It is tempting as moms to think that what we need to make our lives better is a quick solution — something tangible that we can implement tomorrow to make things run smoothly and comfortably. When the daily challenges of running a home and raising children overwhelm us, we think that what we need most is a fresh idea or a new technique and then everything will be okay. So, in those few moments when we have time to think and read, we reach out for those practical books and articles, hoping that some new tip will change things.

While books with practical tips are useful for some things, the hope they provide can be short-lived. In truth, it is in theology, in our study of who God is and what he has done, that gives us the real hope, real wisdom, and real peace that we need in our lives — the kind that lasts. It’s theology — knowing God — that anchors us in the chaos of motherhood.

Moms, theology isn’t just for pastors, teachers, and professors; it’s for you too. And it’s not for another stage of life. It’s vital for you right here, right now, in the trenches of your daily life as a mom.

 

Recipe: Spring Vegetable Gnocchi

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Photos & Recipe via Delish Knowledge

Spring Vegetable Gnocchi! Peas and asparagus in a light cream sauce and gnocchi.
Serves: 4 servings
Ingredients
  • 1 package gnocchi (whole-wheat if preferred)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 shallots, thinly sliced
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 bunch asparagus, chopped into 1″ pieces
  • 1 cup spring peas, thawed if frozen
  • ½ cup grated parmesan cheese (see notes for dairy-free version)
  • ¼ cup heavy cream (see notes for dairy-free version)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • red pepper flakes, for garnish
Instructions
  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the gnocchi and cook until done according to package directions. Drain and lightly rinse with water. Set aside.
  2. Heat a large skillet over medium heat.
  3. Add the olive oil, shallots and pinch of salt and pepper. Cook for 2-3 minutes until shallots are slightly soft.
  4. Add the asparagus and cook for 8-10 minutes until asparagus is fork tender.
  5. Add in the peas and cooked gnocchi, cooking for another 2-3 minutes until peas are heated through.
  6. Remove from heat and sprinkle in parmesan cheese, cream and lemon juice. Stir to combine and add crushed red pepper flakes, if desired.

Article: Why Kids Ask Why (and How to Respond Lovingly)

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The Gospel Coalition by Jen Wilkin

Don’t wait for answers. Just take your chances. Don’t ask me why. — Billy Joel

Small children entrust their parents with all manner of questions. For the most part, we parents consider it a privilege to supply answers, but then there are days the “why’s” won’t stop. As much as we want to help our kids learn and grow, incessant “why’s” can wear on even the most enthusiastic parent, causing us to ask one of our own: Why is this tiny person pushing me to the brink of sanity with endless questions?

It’s important for parents to discern the underlying reason a small child asks “why” if we’re to give a loving and appropriate response. In our experience with our own kids, Jeff and I distinguished three types of “Why’s” in the small child’s vocabulary: the Curious Why, the Social Why, and the Defiant Why. Failure to distinguish between them is a surefire invitation for parental insanity to ensue. Identifying them correctly, however, helps us know how and when to respond, ensuring that we neither shut down honest questions nor entertain unproductive ones.

1. The Curious Why

The most straightforward (and therefore pleasant) of the category, the Curious Why is offered for the sole purpose of achieving better understanding. It’s the mainstay of the most enjoyable conversations of the parent-child relationship. Why do puppies bark? Why is it cold in the winter? Why are you such a great mommy, Mommy? They ask, you respond, they beam appreciatively, the day moves along. These Curious Why moments are to be savored and enjoyed—honest questions posed for the simple joy of learning.

How to respond: Because the Curious Why is a rite of childhood, it deserves to be answered without frustration or distraction, in as helpful a manner as possible. Children may not always time their Curious Why’s conveniently, but as far as is reasonably possible, we should stop what we’re doing, make eye contact, and respond. By doing so, we set the pattern for future, more complex Curious Why’s to be asked: “Why is sex only for marriage?” “Why do we believe Christianity is the only true religion?” We establish ourselves as a safe, trustworthy, and loving place to bring questions of all kinds.

2. The Social Why

A close relative of the Curious Why, the Social Why may have a partial objective of gaining insight into a topic, but its primary objective is to engage you in dialogue. It’s often asked about subjects that are self-explanatory, previously explained, or just plain boring. It is, in fact, often spoken out of boredom. It’s been a while since Mommy has given me her full attention, the small child thinks. Perhaps I will draw her into endless conversation by repeating “Why?’’ at the end of every sentence she utters. So he asks, “Mommy, why is my apple juice yellow?” She responds, “Because it’s made from the insides of apples. That’s what color they are on the inside.” He rejoins, “But why are apples yellow on the inside?” and we’re off to the races. Thirty minutes later, the conversation continues along similar channels, and Mom is considering throwing herself in timeout.

How to respond: An exchange in which one person asks only questions and the other supplies only answers is less of a conversation and more of an interrogation. (More on that to come.) The small child knows the Social Why will initiate and sustain interaction, but he doesn’t know how to have a two-way conversation. This is your opportunity to help him learn. Instead of returning an answer, return a question of your own. Having explained why apple juice is yellow, respond to the follow-up “Why are apples yellow?” with “That’s a good question. Why do you think they are?” Now you have a shared discussion in which both parties bear the burden of the “why.” You’ve invited dialogue, the secret sauce to all good parenting. And you can expect one of two outcomes: Either your child will weary of the conversation once responsible to carry half of it, or he will warm to the conversation and contribute colorful theories of his own. Either way, you both win.

But let’s be frank: Though it’s charming and even a little flattering that a small child wants to draw us into dialogue, sometimes we just need the talking to stop. After entertaining the Social Why respectfully for a reasonable amount of time, you’re within your parental rights to say kindly: “I enjoy talking to you so much, but Mommy needs a timeout from questions for a little bit.” After establishing this healthy boundary, you’re not obligated to answer any more questions until your will to live returns.

3. The Defiant Why

At last, we come to the one we all dread. The Defiant Why, in its simplest form, is an objection to a parental command or a sign of displeasure over a boundary. Its intent is to stall or derail an outcome by miring you in endless explanations.

In its multi-syllabic form (WHHHHHHHHYYYYYYYYYYYYYEEEEEEEE????) it’s easily identifiable, but when employed proficiently by a small child, the Defiant Why can be hard to spot, often posing as the Curious Why. Parents can be drawn in to the charade out of a desire to avoid conflict, or out of a misplaced desire to reason thoroughly with a child willfully misbehaving. You don’t owe a lengthy, multi-layered explanation to a defiant or disobedient child. When you offer one, you’ve again traded dialogue for interrogation/response. Parents suddenly find themselves not in control, but on trial. Feeling trapped by the ongoing interrogation, parents tend either to lecture or to blurt out something along the lines of “Because I said so!”

The problem with both responses is they keep responsibility for the outcome of the misbehavior on the parent instead of the child. The parent mistakenly thinks it’s her job to either convince or coerce the child to obey.

How to respond: A better outcome is to help the child learn to take responsibility. Instead of responding with a statement, respond with a question.

Mom: “Jimmy, it’s time to go home. Please put on your shoes.”

Jimmy: “WHYYYYYYYYYYYY?”

Mom: “I’ve told you why. What did I say?”

(Jimmy stares sullenly)

“Do you need to sit in timeout until you can answer me?”

Jimmy: “No.”

Mom: “Why do you need to put your shoes on?”

Jimmy: “Because it’s time to go.”

Mom (in a genuinely encouraging tone): “That’s right! Now please do what I’ve asked.”

Jimmy’s defiance has been exposed, and his knowledge of the right choice has been exposed too. You’ve even verbally rewarded him for his memory skills. He’s now accountable to do what he’s been asked. The Defiant Why wants to sidetrack a parent into thinking obedience has been slow because of lack of clarity. When we respond to the Defiant Why with an explanation, we’re in effect answering a fool according to his folly (Prov. 26:4). We become complicit in our child’s foolish desire to delay obeying. By continuing to offer responses, we lend credibility to his complaint.

But what about that ultimate trump card, “Because I said so”? The motive behind this most famous of parental sayings is actually good: For the well-being of the child, the conversation is over and obedience needs to commence. But there’s a better way to accomplish the same outcome. Rather than an ultimatum centered on the parent, shift to a diagnosis centered on the child. Name the Defiant Why for what it is: arguing.

Jimmy: “WHYYYYYYYYYYYY?”

Mom: “That’s arguing. You need to obey. If you argue you will go to time out, okay?”

If, instead of an obedient “Yes, ma’am” or “Okay, Mom” another “why” is forthcoming, Jimmy goes to timeout until he can respond positively and do what was asked. By responding with a diagnosis instead of an ultimatum, parents call the child to account for the motive behind the “Why” and graciously give a way out of the deadlock by halting the back-and-forth.

Most Important Why

Listening closely to the context and tone of our children’s “why’s” can help us avoid the twin errors of hastily shutting down an earnest question or blindly entertaining a defiant one. The highly relational parent may tend to assume the best motive behind every “why,” while the highly rules-driven parent may tend to assume the worst. Relational parents will be tempted to answer all questions; rules-focused parents will be tempted to answer none. So perhaps the first and most important “why” to diagnose is this: “Why do I typically respond the way I do to my child’s questions?” Recognizing whether we’re more prone to let “why’s” lead to interrogations or to ultimatums can help us respond lovingly and appropriately.

By laboring to discern the kind of “why” our small child is asking, we help them become both conversational and compliant—not just a child we want to inform, but one we actually enjoy interacting with. By working to discern the “why” behind our typical responses, we learn to parent from a place of self-awareness—with an eye toward long-term relationship. Our own heavenly Parent doesn’t always answer our “why’s” in ways we find satisfying from our limited perspective. But we rest in the “who” of God’s character when the “why” eludes us. May we be Moms and Dads whose kids trust the “who” of our character as we shepherd them through the wonderful, wearying, wisdom-shaping “why’s” of the early years.