About 25 years ago, I was working in a psychiatric hospital and a young 14 year old girl asked me why her parents had locked her up. I thought carefully and gave her the best answer I could think of. Either she had really made them angry or had really scared them. Her response was that “she didn’t buy that.”
I was taken aback. I had given her the best answer I had and believed it to be true. How could she not believe it? Then I realized she did not want an answer to feel better, she wanted to debate the answer.
The more I thought about the situation, it dawned on me that adults are constantly debated on their decisions. Back in the 70’s, people started to get away from saying, “Do it because I told you so, I’m your mother (or father).” We were told that telling a child to do it this way was wrong. Give them a good reason and they will comply. This strategy worked well into the 80’s.
By the 90’s, teenagers had turned the tables on adults. By adults giving children the go ahead to question everything and everyone, we gave them a tool that was manipulative rather than a learning tool. Once we gave them a good reason, they were supposed to comply. Today they choose to argue and debate rather than do what they were told to do. They were trying to control the situation.
I have a problem giving children reasons today. Don’t take me wrong, I used this strategy very successfully in programs during the 80’s and 90’s. But I think in trying to help our children, we have unwittingly hurt them. To comply without question implies trust. And trust is the first element in any relationship, and probably the most important. Stop for a second and think about it.
By teaching children to constantly question people in authority, we have destroyed their ability to trust. It has become a game to try to be in control of the situation. Then these same children try to form a real relationship and can’t. They have not learned the first step to a satisfying and long lasting relationship, trust.
You may not agree with me, and many of my professional colleagues don’t. They want to be politically correct. But try this test. The next time your child asks why a certain rule or situation exists, ask them if they know the answer or can they come up with the answer themselves. Usually they say no, they don’t know. At that point, ask them if they don’t know, will they accept whatever answer you give them without any debate. At this point, they don’t want an answer since they already agreed not to debate. I did this in my high school class one day after this same discussion with the school psychologist. In fact, I asked the class why they asked “why”, and the student’s response was that they may not have to do what they were asked to do. Just one of those situations we face often with our children.
One last point, I do believe that the concept of trust is paramount to a person’s success in life and relationships, so I believe that we need to teach them about trust. They need to learn who to trust and who to question. But that takes time and effort. I believe we need to help children develop the concept of trust so they can have rewarding relationships. ===��uwڳj