Moral precept #4: Provide the why of practical training

As with providing an explanation for the moral behavior we expect of our children, we must also do so in practical matters. While it is good that our children simply obey our word, it is reasonable to provide them with an explanation as to why we expect a certain behavior.

If a child asks for an explanation in a way that questions your authority, it is best not to provide it. A power struggle may certainly ensue if you do. But if he is simply curious and wants to know more (you are the teacher; he is your student), then by all means explain.

Sometimes the line between moral training and practical training is a little fuzzy. When in doubt, provide the explanation. The book gives us this example:

“Shayla’s dad was working on a weed problem near the fruit tree. His busyness attracted her curiosity. Seeing his daughter draw near, he warned, ‘Shayla, move away from the tree. I just sprayed poison around the trunk, and it’s not safe,’” (On Becoming Childwise, p. 82).

This was a very practical scenario with a very practical reason (health and safety). Since Shayla’s father explained to her why she should avoid the tree, her curiosity was satisfied. The simple explanation minimized the tension between Shayla’s need for obedience and her natural curiosity.

Don’t allow yourself to get into a power struggle with your child simply because you can’t or don’t want to provide your reasoning behind a request. Don’t incite a power struggle.

As I said above, unless your child is questioning your authority, give him the explanation. This of course requires that you be able to discern your child’s motives. Is he just curious or does he think he shouldn’t have to follow your instruction? You can often hear it in his tone. When you’re not sure, give him the benefit of the doubt.