In my experience as a mom with a 4 year old and a 6 year old, explaining things comprehensively and simply at the same time poses a never ending challenge. We have an extremely inquisitive 6 year old, who has made such observations in the past:
Age 3 When I was trying to get her to walk faster and asked her why she was being so slow, she replied, “Mommy, little chums have short legs.” (We call her our little chum)
Age 3 At the dinner table she inquires, “Mommy, are we eating beef?” (Yes, I replied – we were eating pot roast) “Does the cow have to be killed?” ( Yes, I replied). Then the zinger, “Mommy, little chums don’t like it when animals have to die for us to eat our dinner.” My husband and I looked at each other in amazement and suddenly decided that we were no longer hungry . We offered our daughter the choice to be vegetarian, and she tried it for a little while before deciding that she loved ground beef too much.
Age 4 While driving in the car, “mommy, is whip cream a liquid, a solid or a gas?” At this point, we had already explained about the 3 phases of matter, using water as an example. The question, on the surface appears easy, but is actually somewhat complicated. It is a suspended emulsion for those of you who were desparate to know.
Age 4 She is really scared about Santa entering our home in the middle of the night. She just doesn’t like the idea of having some stranger prowling around our house at 3 am, so we spilled the beans and explained the nature of Santa. She told us that she thought that made sense. We went on to explain the absolute importance that she keep this information to herself, so when her auntie was visiting, and asked my daughter if she was excited for Santa to come, our little co conspirator looked at us knowingly, then turned to her auntie and replied, “yes, I am so excited”. If she had had the muscle tone to wink, I am sure she would have.
Another zinger came at us at age 4; the philisophical age in our house, “where is nowhere?” Had she been secretly talking to Neitzche when we weren’t looking?
Age 6 “Daddy, what is the biggest star in the universe?” To which Fraser replied, “we don’t know the answer to this question because we don’t know the entire universe.” She then chimed in with, “what is the biggest star that we know of so far?”
Many questions come at us, fast and furious, and hourly. Sometimes, I just have to put her in “question time out” for half an hour to allow time for my brain to cool down. “Please don’t ask mommy any more questions for the next half hour,” to which our daughter replies “why?”
There are many, many others that I will remember at 2 am tomorrow morning when I wake up, but can’t for the life of me remember now. The point of these examples is to illustrate that my husband and I made a commitment that we would answer all questions the best we could, and look up the answers if we didn’t know. Of course, this commitment was made before children came into our lives, and it is now tempered with age and experience, and we scrimp on the details when we are worn out, but our daughter was able to read at a young age and has dictionaries and encyclopedias in her room. At 6, she is learning to “Google” her questions; ahhh sweet, sweet Google babysitter and question answerer.
This is not to say that we play fast and loose with the rules in our house. We have only 3, and so far, they have been applicable to every situation that we have encountered with our kids:
1. Don’t hurt yourself.
2. Don’t hurt anyone else.
3. Don’t wreck our stuff.
That’s it; the KISS principle in action. Whenever a transgression occurs, we ask our kids to specify the rule broken.
Once, we explained to our kids the intent of T.V. commercials. We feel this is especially important when toy, candy, cereal and other ads are coming at them non stop. The ability to critically think has already reaped rewards. I saw a product on a TV commercial that I was interested in purchasing. My daughter pointed out that I was falling for the advertiser’s ploy to get me to buy. She was right. It made me take a second look.
In our house, we respect our children, and recognize that just because they are smaller, doesn’t mean that they have less rights as human beings. This is not to say that time outs and privilage removals don’t happen regularly in response to breaking one of the above 3 rules, we are attempting to remove the arbitrariness out of discipline and endeavoring never to be hypocrites. Kids can smell hypocracy like a shark smells blood, and we have been called out more than once to be sure, but we are grateful that we have kids who are able to critically think about the world at a young age.