The One Question to NOT Ask Your Kid
Parent’s! Please do not ask your child, “Why did you do that?”
I was at the playground the other day and some kids appeared to be fighting in the grass. As I ran over, I channeled my 6’4”, 230 lb. father and yelled, “HEY! What’s going on here?” The kids all froze and stared at me wide-eyed. There were five of them and they appeared to range in ages from six, to maybe eight. Swiftly, there appeared another mom behind me and she said, “I’ve got this. I saw what happened and two of them are mine.” Relieved, I retreated to the picnic tables to wait for my kids.
This mom proceeded to interrogate the kids to get the full story. She then yanked the youngest boy to a table near me and began to verbally assault her son.
Mom: “WHY did you do that? You did it last week to Brookie and you did it today to Shawn. Other kids aren’t going to like you if you kick them!”
Son: “Mom, he said the ‘H’ word!”
Mom: “I don’t understand why you did that! WHY did you do that? I’ve told you before, you can’t kick other kids. No one is going to want to play with you!”
Son: “Mom, he said the ‘H’ word! The BAD one!”
This went on for a painful period of time and she never addressed his answers or how he might have handled it differently. Eventually, she wore him down, and with his head hung low, she forced him to go and apologize to the kid who had said the ‘H’ word.
What I was witnessing was her son getting a lesson in shame. He was learning to distrust his instincts and, in fact, think that his instincts were bad and wrong. He was somehow defective. Her son tried to answer her question but she didn’t actually want an answer. Her questioning was just a way to vent her anger and fear.
Kids don’t know why they do something. What’s required in an emotional moment, such as this soul level comfort.
What is soul level comfort? Soul level comfort is when another person sees your distress and moves in with physical touch and listening so that you feel understood, seen, validated, valued, and cared for. Listening in this way means this person is able to ask you questions in such a way that they are really able to understand what is going on in your heart and mind.
Seen and Understood
- You seem very upset by his use of the ‘H’ word. Can you tell me about that?
- What happened inside of you when you heard him say the ‘H’ word?
- So you thought it was really important to stop him from saying the ‘H’ word again?
- I can see why you feel that way. That makes sense to me.
- I might feel the exact same way in the same circumstances.
Valued and Cared For
- Well, I’m really sorry you had that upsetting experience. I want to help you with some other ideas of what you might do in a similar circumstance. What do you think some other kids might do in a similar circumstance?
We are created for connection. We all want to be seen, known and valued. Comfort is not possible without an emotional connection. As a parent, if you listen to your child and encourage him to talk about his inner emotions and experiences, you get to really know him and he gets to know himself. Children must be taught to understand their reactions, behaviors, needs and inner conflicts and this ability is one of the most valuable life skills you can give your child. So, please parents, next time your kid does something that makes your head want to explode, take a deep breath, calm down and go for some soul level comfort!