It’s important to allow children to question the norms no matter how controversial it may sound; Just because we never questioned our parents and took it up as stated doesn’t mean our kids need to follow suit. Only in an environment where children feel safe, secure and get unconditional love, will they push boundaries and have the courage to ask uncomfortable questions. Where else can they voice their opinions so freely without garnering judgement or criticism? Where else but home?
Asking questions have long been associated with disobedience in our society and that’s kind of hard-wired in our system. So, basically we are a society that thinks compliance means obedience and an obedient kid equals successful parenting.
As soon as a child questions certain norms that we had blindly followed when we were kids, we feel threatened; and if the child persists then it is termed plain and simple disobedience. Yes, it would be easier if our kids just listened to whatever we say without rhyme or reason; but don’t we want our kids to be curious, inquisitive and thinking people or would we rather just want mindless compliance? (I know, sometimes mindless compliance is bliss; but you know what I mean here).
I personally know kids who just comply to avoid arguments and say things that would be acceptable and “politically correct” even though they don’t personally agree with it nor have any conviction in what they are saying. I definitely don’t want that in my kids.
So when my kids ask uncomfortable questions or question my decision, instead of feeling anxious or flustered I think, maybe this just means that I have given them that freedom to express their thoughts, that comfort level to speak their mind and that conviction that they wouldn’t be judged or taken amiss. Their questions range from heavy topics like following traditions, cultural beliefs and faith in god to lighter ones like their comfort vs. dress codes, family rules, bed-time etc. etc.
There are times when I had wondered if letting them speak their mind was a right decision and should I have probably said “Do it as I say” or “Because I said so” rather than answering all their questions diligently? Because that would have been much easier to do than to answer their why’s; “but why should I” or “why shouldn’t I”.
But now, being a little older and probably just a little bit wiser, I know that it was the right thing to do.
Not easy, but right.
Now, I have learnt to take pride in my kid’s uncomfortable questions.
I think we should be proud if our kids come to us with such questions and arguments that catch us unawares. If we could give convincing answers or counter arguments then well and good; but even otherwise it helps to have open ended discussions and debates which allow us to hear each other out and bring our opinions to the table and be able to present our side of justifications. It is never easy for people belonging to two different generations to agree on everything. It is never going to happen, no matter how open-minded and forward-thinking person you are.
Every generation feels they were not understood by their parent’s generation. It’s not going to be any different now between our kids and us. We can kid ourselves by thinking otherwise, but we will wake up soon enough, because that’s how it is.
So not agreeing to their views doesn’t mean we can’t have open discussions and healthy arguments with our kids. We must. And from time to time, as and when a situation presents itself, we should take the opportunity to discuss, debate and even agree to disagree, if need be; but definitely talk and not shy away or avoid confrontations. This also moulds kids to speak up when needed and not be a push-over even as adults.
There are so many issues popping up around us, so many good, bad and ugly happenings; things we might not feel comfortable discussing with our kids. If not through us, they will get to know about these things through media; so whether it’s about issues of hate crimes, racism, sexual abuse, climate change or anything else under the sun, we must be able to talk to our kids.
We may not always have the right answers but we must allow the thought process often loaded with contradicting stand-points, to take place in the safe confines of our homes. In all probability, our children may not even be seeking answers; they might just need a sounding board, a safe haven to bring out their anxieties, confusions and insecurities. All we need is to just provide that space for them.