When the Best Answer is a Good Question

Blog / Produced by The High Calling
Mary Anne Morgan Power Of Good Questions

Thoughtful questions are valuable tools for parents, writes blogger and pastor's wife Elizabeth Stewart. With them, we can "train our children to obey us swiftly (and with a good attitude)." This, she notes, "is entry-level discipleship. In doing so, we are teaching them in obedience to God."

Our granddaughter is a deep thinker. She's extremely smart and very curious. She always wants to understand how things work and why things are the way they are. Recently, my oldest daughter needed someone to watch our two granddaughters for a couple of hours. I was out of town, so my husband volunteered.

At one point while they were under his care, Papa corrected the older of the two girls about something and told her that she needed to obey. As seriously as she could, she asked him, "Why? Mama and Daddy say that I have to obey, too, but I really just don't understand why?"

In conveying this incident to me, my husband explained that her attitude wasn't rebellious or sassy. Her question seemed like one born out of a sincere desire to understand the importance of obedience.

When our children ask us why, many of us answer that question with the standard answer: "Because I said so!" I think that response can be appropriate, but only after the child is old enough to truly understand why obedience is necessary.

I remember trying to explain this concept when my own daughters were small. I said something about God wanting them to learn to listen to and obey Mom and Dad when they were young, so they would know how to listen to and obey God when they got older.

Answering with Questions

I believe that to be true, but it is a bit incomplete. Maybe the best answer would have been a few good questions: "Do you know that we love you?"; "Do you know that we want what is best for you?"; "Do you know that we want to keep you safe?"; "Do you understand why we want to teach you how to treat others?"

Hopefully, they would have answered those questions in the affirmative. If so, I could have followed up with, "Because all of those things are true, you can trust Mama and Daddy. When we are asking you to obey, it's for your good, even if you might not understand."

In one of my favorite books, "Intimate Friendship with God", author Joy Dawson explains that God promises intimate friendship to those who reverentially fear him. She writes that reverential fear of God is evidenced by how quickly we obey him—and if we obey wholeheartedly. I agree, but I rarely see this level of obedience in anyone who isn't unshakably confident in God's trustworthiness, his love for them, and his desire to do what is best. When we are confident of God's good leadership in our lives, our swift, wholehearted obedience follows.

The Perfect Parent

When it comes to parenting, no matter how hard we try, our leadership is not perfect. When we mess up, the best answer may (again) be a good question: "I'm sorry; I was wrong. Will you forgive me?" We can admit to our children that even human parents who love their children—who sincerely want what is best for them—will blow it.

However, God is a perfect father who can be trusted to always do the right thing. Even though we don't parent perfectly, training our children to obey us swiftly (and with a good attitude) is entry-level discipleship. In doing so, we are teaching them in obedience to God.

If we've clearly communicated loving motives behind our expectation of obedience when they are little, our children should understand that "Because I said so!" really means:

  • because I love you
  • because I want what is best for you
  • because I want to keep you safe
  • because I want you to respect and treat others appropriately
  • because I want you to learn to obey swiftly and wholeheartedly

We can also trust that the Father says the same about us.