Friday, December 26, 2008

Rhetorical To Real

"How many times do I have to ask you? What did I just say? Did you hear me? What did you do that for? What were you thinking?"

These are rhetorical questions parents ask when their kids do something wrong. We never expect an answer; in fact, we don't even give them a chance to answer. I've realized this and decided I'm going to change that.

Toby's still too young, but with Josie, I can have a discussion launched from these questions and really give her a chance to respond.

A while ago, she was jumping on my bed so I asked her to stop. She kept doing it. I said, "Josie, I just asked you to stop jumping on the bed. Why did you keep doing it?" And then I made eye contact with her and waited for an answer. When she saw that I was actually asking for an answer and not just throwing those questions out to scold her, she really thought about it and explained herself to me.

She got a chance to reflect on and explain her behavior and I got a little look into her mind and reasoning process. Win-win situation. Not only that, she doesn't always ignore those types of rhetorical questions from me anymore; she actually stops sometimes to think about what I asked and tries to answer.

This is a pretty mature thinking process, this type of self-reflection. If we, as adults, asked ourselves similar questions about our own behavior and choices, we might be stumped. Why did I just have that drink when I know I've already had too many? Why did I do that? Why did I agree to go out with that guy when I know he's no good for me? What was I thinking? Why am I taking this job when I know it's going to make me miserable? How many times have I made this mistake before?

If we forced ourselves to stop, really reflect upon, and answer these questions, we might come up with some helpful answers, just as our kids can if we give them a chance to respond instead of throwing out empty, meaningless questions at them.

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