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Friday, 09 March 2012 09:39

Empowering Your Child: The Value of the “Whys”

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Bill Gates said of the information technology revolution, “There’s a basic philosophy here that by empowering…workers you’ll make their jobs far more interesting, and they’ll be able to work at a higher level than they would have without all that information just a few clicks away.”

We can readily see how this philosophy is applied in the business world. Empowered employees aremore invested in their jobs and bring their best to what they do. Good managers understand that imaginative problem-solving is far preferable to mindless compliance.

The principle can be a little trickier to apply to parenting. What does it really mean to empower your child so that he or she is deeply invested in your family? You are not going to hand the car keys over to your 10-year-old, nor are you going to hand your teenager a wad of cash and tell her to spend it on whatever she likes. Empowering your children means giving them the wisdom and skills they need to make good decisions for their current stage of life. If you do this for long enough, they will be ready to make decisions as an adult.  In fact, the process of parenting can be seen as the transition from taking care of your child to empowering him to take care of himself. 

The Whys

Remember all those “why” questions we talked about earlier? I found that answering my daughter’s endless “whys” was vital to empowering her to become her own person. When we do not take the time to thoughtfully answer our children’s questions, we can be unintentionally dismissive. We are sending the silent message that they do not need to know more than they already do, or that they are not important enough for us to bother explaining something.

Giving your children a sound explanation for why you do what you do gives them a reason to follow the rules even outside of your presence. It also forces you to think more deliberately about the rules you set.

Of course these “whys” begin very early—usually at the ripe old age of 2 or 3. Certainly there will be times when children use the “why” as a stall: “Why do I have to go to bed now, Daddy?” The key is to give younger children a true but succinct answer and move on. As the child grows, however, you will need to set aside real time to answer his questions thoughtfully.

Often your children will question why you are making a certain decision or the reasoning behind a certain rule. It is easy to feel as if this is a challenge to your authority. However, keep in mind that it is far easier to accept a ruling if you understand the reasoning behind it. As we discussed previously, giving your children a sound explanation for why you do what you do gives them a reason to follow the rules even outside of your presence. It also forces you to think more deliberately about the rules you set.

Be prepared for your children to ask you “why” about other things too. Once again, remember that all children are different and therefore curious about different things. Do not allow yourself to see this as a nuisance. This is your opportunity to share your knowledge and experiences with them. If you don’t know the answer, offer to help them look it up. If your children see you as a reliable source of information from a young age, they will continue to seek your advice as they get older.

From her late teens to the present, my daughter has consulted me on personal and business matters far more frequently than I could have ever imagined, which has been an honor and joy.

This is my opinion.  It worked for me and it can work for you.  You just have to try it!


Chris Efessiou

About Chris Efessiou:  Chris Efessiou is an entrepreneur, business leader, educator, mentor, international speaker, radio show host, and best-selling author of CDO Chief Daddy Officer: The Business of Fatherhood  based on his own experience from raising his daughter as a single dad by applying his business knowledge to the business of parenting.  Listen to Chris’s weekly Radio Show Straight Up With Chris:  Real Talk on Business and Parenthood on Voice America Radio.  You may connect with Chris on Facebook, follow on Twitter and visit