Why Ask Why?

Have you ever thought about why you care about the things you care about? Why is it that some people are passionate about climate change and others are passionate about repealing the death sentence? Why do some parents put their kids to bed with stories while others choose to make bath time, conversation, prayer, or simply sleep the emphasis of the evening? Why might it make sense to decline a Sunday afternoon birthday party invitation even if the schedule is open? 


Have you taken the time to examine your why?


As parents, knowing why we do what we do is critical to parenting well for the long run. Knowing why is the not the only important element of parenting of course, but it’s a vital component of the whole. Because if we know what we want to accomplish—a happy child, a responsible child, a clean home, a vibrant social network—but we don’t really know why, our intentions will crumble in the face of opposition. 


  • Want your child to go to bed at a reasonable hour? Why? Because one night your child is going to push back, and you better be ready for it.


  • Want to set boundaries around your child’s technology use or television viewing? Why? Because you can be certain at some point your child will want to play that game or watch that movie or visit that friend’s house and your going to need to know where you stand.


  • Want to protect family time as a priority, whether it’s a nightly dinner, a Friday night ritual, or a full weekend day of connection? Why? Because there will come a time when outside invitations or activities, or internal resistance to traditions will threaten to derail your weekly routine. 


You will never be stronger in your resolve than if you have a ready answer for the question “why,” because knowing why grounds you in your values and gives you something to hold on to when those values are questioned.


I’ve been pondering the importance of why for some time now, and recently came across a TED talk by leadership expect Simon Sinek who claims knowing why we do what we do is not only critical to our own sense of purpose, but is a key element of inspiring others to join with us as we enact our ideals. He says knowing and articulating why is critical because it allows others to connect with not only what we do, but the deeper beliefs that drive our doing them. When we know our why, we are able to become leaders who inspire others to action on behalf of our shared causes.


As parents, we are (quite literally) born into leadership. We are the captains of our family ship, the generals of our family army. Choose whatever metaphor you like—the truth is, parents set the tone. Parents lead, for better or worse. As parents, we need to not only know where we’re going, but why we’re going there. Why does it matter?


Because knowing why can be the difference between getting where we need to go, and wondering how we never made it.