My 3-year-old surprised me the other night. It didn’t surprise me that he sneaked out of bed and was listening to us while we ate ice cream cake with my parents.
It didn’t surprise me that he ran back to bed as soon as he heard us come up the stairs, or that he jumped in bed and pretended to be sleeping as we walked in the room.
The ice cream cake came up shortly after we started talking to him.
I was surprised that he pieced together what had happened so we could have the ice cream cake. He told me it was the same ice cream cake at Carvel and asked if Daddy took it home and put it in the freezer after he got it from Carvel.
Mommy, is that what happened? Yes, son. That’s what happened.
This isn’t the first time I’ve been surprised by how much my kids get.
I mention this because a lot of times, as a parent, I avoid explaining things to my kids because I don’t know whether they will be able to understand, or whether they would actually understand what they are experiencing.
When kids ask a lot of questions, they usually understand a lot more answers. This makes life more complicated for parents.
It’s true that I’m sometimes more focused on appeasing my child with my explanations in order to have a moment’s peace and quiet than on his understanding and whether my explanations are understandable but challenging to his current level of development.
To me, it matters because we prevent our kids from applying the comprehension level they actually possess when we deny them explanations or give stupid “baby” explanations.
And, if they understand more about a situation than we do and don’t get a good explanation from us, they’re implicitly encouraged to investigate other sources.
They won’t be satisfied with a bad explanation – they’re going to try somewhere else.
This gives us the opportunity to build a very strong parent-child bond, and help our children find the answers they’re looking for.
At the moment, they may wonder why grandpa won’t answer the phone, where the ants come from, or why we can’t get on the plane this week rather than next. However, in years to come, they will need guidance on life-defining issues.
I want my children to feel at ease coming to me with any question and knowing that I will give them a clear answer, or help them discover a solution, now and in the future.
This means I have to put some thought into my explanations. I have to answer the questions in a way that my child understands but is also challenged by the answer so he keeps asking new questions.
Children are so inquisitive for a reason, and it’s not just to drive their parents nuts! It’s because they understand so much more than we realize now and they’re searching for their place in the world. Let’s help them.
Also, I am very careful to ensure I give my kids honest answers.
I don’t tell my kids the boogeyman is going to chase them if they misbehave. I don’t mind playing pretend or developing their imagination, but giving them the real answers now will satisfy their thirsty minds far more than telling them boogeyman stories.
First off, they often understand more than we think, and may recognize that we’re not telling them the whole story – which can send them conflicting messages.
But even if that’s not the case, the earlier kids figure out real causes and effects, the sooner they’ll learn to make decisions based on outcomes they want, and the sooner they’ll figure out how to take responsibility for their choices.
My three year old can already recognize that many things depend on the choices he makes.
He also knows that not everything is perfect. He doesn’t understand everything, but he does understand a lot, and I want him to be able to trust what he learns now and as he continues to evolve and mature.
God bless all of you parents out there!
Make sure you have the time to answer your child now so that you can strengthen your relationship and help them grow.