Question Authority: I’m Okay with My Kids Asking Why

February 10, 2014  |  

If you grew up old school like I did, then you knew better than to ask your mom “why” when she told you no, or she told you to do something. I know in my mom’s house, if you even twisted your lips to try it, she set you straight – and rightfully so. She was the boss and her authority was not to be undermined. She loved us to pieces and was only stern when she had to be,  but the way she figured is that if we couldn’t show respect for authority in our own house, how would we manage to do it out there in the real world?  I got it and to this day, I still get it. And even though I feel my mom did the right thing, and I understand her logic now, I would’ve loved to have understood it back then.

However, I’ve decided to tweak things a little bit with my kids, because the world has changed a lot since then. Now, it’s crucial that kids be able to question authority and understand more about the decision making and planning that goes into raising them. I think the best way to prepare them to take care of themselves later in life is to clue them in on our thought process now. Here’s why it’s so important that kids be able to ask why?

It’s a Teachable Moment

The desire to ask  why is a critical question in the life of any human being – especially a child. It’s natural for them to want to understand the things happening around them and I think it’s our jobs, as parents, to fuel that curiosity and creativity. For example, at school, I want them to be accustomed to learning the why behind some of their history lessons, not just what events happened, but some of the deciding factors that may have caused certain events to take place. If they can’t ask why at home, chances are they won’t do it in school, either. Now, my kids are no fools; they know if I tell them to do something, it needs to be done. However, if they are not clear, or if they just want to know more about why my answer is the way  it is, they will ask why –and I’m okay with helping them to understand.  I’m not going to let them take it but so far or get mired down in a bunch of negotiations, (that is one of the risks) but I am sensitive towards my kids and will use those times as teachable moments. They can’t really learn anything if every response is met with “because I said so”, or “that’s just the way it is.”

Knowing Why is a Motivator

I want my kids to respect authority just as much as the next person. Being too lenient on a child can lead to trouble, but so can being too authoritative. Years ago, I started out parenting authoritatively, and while my kids complied, it was a lot of effort. They’re smart kids, so they knew to do what I asked,  but the process felt crumby for all of us. However, when I became more open to explaining why, I could see they were more motivated and even took initiative to do things that needed to be done, before I’d even asked. I also had to repeat myself less. I love not repeating myself. They know that their rooms need to be clean, because they’re less overwhelmed when their space is neat and they can’t have sugar before bed because it will just make them more sluggish in the morning. When they’re sluggish in the morning they know momma yells, and nobody needs that, right? Now that they’re clued into the “why”, the “what” seems to take care of itself.

We Don’t Know Everything

Another big reason I allow my kids to ask why is because I don’t know everything and there are times that they’ll have to teach me. It’s so easy to go on autopilot in this parenting thing. I may be saying no to something, but the facts on the ground may have changed and need to be re-evaluated. It’s usually one of my kids who introduces said new information if they are really passionate about something and want me to see their way on it. Again, these are smart kids who know whining, pouting and tantrums will get them absolute nowhere.  They know they have to come to me with a well-reasoned argument and I’ll do them one solid and take those things into consideration.

My daughter’s pitch for a Facebook page was compelling; it totally changed my mind and I could see her taking that same approach to maybe one day ask for a raise, or to take on a new project at work.


Our main objective as parents should not be to just raise kids who can respect authority. Our current society calls for so much more. They also need to be critical thinkers and problem solvers who can challenge the status quo when necessary. It’s up to us to lay a firm foundation by letting them ask why.

I’ll admit, I struggled with it a little bit until I realized that if they’re not asking why, then they’re also not learning. Now, I embrace it.

Do you let your kids ask why? Why or why not?

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