Does it matter why?

May 9, 2010 § 1 Comment

Back to a parenting question. When our kids yell, bite, hit, push, scream, and cry, does it matter if we know why? Does it help you? Does it hurt you?

For instance, if I think I understand why baby brother is crying, I’m more likely to respond with compassion. If I don’t, I’m less likely. If bilingual baby screams about something I don’t think is worthy of my pity, am I doing her a disservice in her venting of strong emotions? Will I be less tolerant of her current means of communication?

So, if I stopped worrying about figuring out why my kids do the things they do and why they are the way they are, would I just approach situations with an air of mystery. Would I look at their crying, pushing, begging, etc, as “how” they are instead of trying to work through my head an explanation of “why” they’re doing what they’re doing? What would I gain from being right about their “why”?

This “why” factor seems very logical and in some ways cold. “Why” is what therapists deal with day in and day out. They work through your why and try to help you see someone else’s why. The more I think about it, figuring out “why” places blame. Blame because first I have to figure out why someone has done X to me. Why did they do that? Then, I have to rationalize their actions. What if I don’t agree with their why? What then? Rather than accepting them where they are, I’m caught in why world, telling myself that their reason for doing X is stupid or childish and so forth. In the end, I would never do X to anyone because… well, I’m better than that person. But basically, their why is just not my why. We are different people. We react different ways in similar situations. I may never understand their why, but perhaps I could just understand that they are how they are.

My sweet boy loves to push over things that are bigger than he is. He goes over to the kid chairs we got for them and pushes them both over. He goes to the kitchen and pushes over the stools that are there for them to stand on and help with cooking. It’s his thing right now. Why don’t I tell him to stop? There’s they ‘why’ again. Why not just reflect on the fact that this is what he’s doing right now. Even if I don’t agree, I can be at peace with the fact that this is how he is acting right now. There isn’t much I can do other than work myself up and tell him over and over again to stop- which doesn’t work. What does work is to meet him where he is and play along, taking away the adult judgement that “we don’t push chairs over”. If nobody is getting hurt, I’m not going to take issue. But will my mom friends feel different? Geez, what will they think of me? Will they stop coming around because they think my kid is going to be pushing chairs over his whole life? Or do they think he’s unruly?

When we ask ourselves why other parents or adults don’t do things the way we do them, there’s a value judgment- one that is easily transfered onto kids. Why don’t they clean up when I ask them to? Why don’t they listen to me? Why can’t they stop _____?

I think I’ll be asking why until I’m blue in the face. What I’ve realized is that when I don’t ask why, I worry that I’m encouraging “bad” and unwanted behavior. That’s what we were taught as kids. You get a frown from mom/dad when you do something they don’t like and a huge smile, kiss, “good job”, etc, when you do something they like. If you do the thing they don’t like again, you get another frown, maybe a talking to, and possibly a time-out. Still, the modeling is conditional love. They love you when you are “good” and don’t love you when you’re “bad”. My logic takes me to believe that when you grow up and have lived under that roof of conditional love, you probably won’t call on your parents when you’ve done something “bad”, even if you desperately need their help.

I honestly have no idea. All in all, we’re parents for the first time. We’re doing the best we can with what we’ve got, the kids we have, the spouse we married, the families that brought us up. So, if you want to throw this in your mind’s junk drawer, fine by me. I’m just trying. Just like you.

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