One of the best lessons I have learned as a parent lately was taken from a short lesson in our simple detective textbooks- you know those thin, little supplementary books you buy in a moment of weakness? Yep, one of those. My kids and I learned that one of the most effective questions a detective can ask is “why”. It’s a powerful little question that has the potential to open the most interesting boxes- or topics in conversation in my case. It’s came in handy recently, and I think I will try to start using it more often.

My kids are getting older and a simple distraction tactic no longer works when I need to get their minds off of something. Also the awareness of how other people do things is alive. I am glad my kids are seeing the pro and cons to how other families work, but I also need to be sure that we- as a family- are sticking to our values. Here is where the “for instance” comes into play.

When my girls were babies, I began watching the culture of family life around me. I observed how a wide variety of families functioned and, somewhere in that time, decided that I didn’t need to do things the same way everyone else did it and that we had to be intentional about the way we parented our kids. (This is when the homeschool conversations started between me and my husband, by the way.) In either a moment of ignorance or a second of wisdom, we decided that we wouldn’t do sleepovers- both attending or hosting. We have several reasons, which I could share about another time. But, my kids are older now and I have had to practice explaining the why’s behind our decision.

Most recently, one of my kids really wanted to have a sleepover. Thankfully, I was well rested and deeply caffeinated when the conversation arose because I needed to be on my A-game to handle this like an old pro. Before I reminded her of our family policy, I just asked her why. What was it about a sleepover that was so desirable? I was willing to listen to her ideas and reasons before I gave a blanket statement of decline.

After thinking for a few minutes, she came up with a list of things she imagined she liked about sleepovers… the pajamas, the nails, the breakfast with your friends, the extended hang out time, the movie, the pizza, the presents and snacks…. It all sounded so sweet and kind of Hollywood-ish. While I listened to her ideas, I began hoping I would come up with some kind of answer that pleased us both because her party dreams did sound fun. I suggested we have a day time, slumber party themed birthday party. Then, I was able to explain my idea more. We could start the party in the morning with a huge waffle bar, with homemade whipped cream and sliced strawberries. Then, head upstairs to a sleeping bag covered bedroom to watch a movie on the projector. Do nails, open presents, hang out for a good long time and just enjoy the company of friends. We could end the party with a late pizza lunch. Then all the kids are well rested the next day and the family schedule isn’t wrecked. All because I asked “why”.

As parents we should be prepared with our own answers to the “why” questions. And, if we don’t know our answers, we should do our research and figure out our stance on things. Establishing family values and maybe even a family mission statement is a helpful way to extract as much from our days and years as possible.

How have you practiced the asking of the “why” in your family?

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Lindsay Banton is a caffeinated mother to three great kids. She never expected to homeschool, but has found that it is a wonderful addition to their lifestyle and wouldn’t change it for the world. In addition to homeschooling, Lindsay works alongside her husband in campus ministry at a large university in Connecticut. She grew up in Virginia but has settled into life in New England, learning to love the long winters, cool springs, green summers and gorgeous autumns- and has built a boot collection to meet all the demands. She is currently blogging at www.lindsaybanton.com.

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