Asking “Why?” is Keeping You Stuck

I slept in today.

But I had a really good reason.

So I’m okay with it.

I’m okay that I didn’t get a shower. I didn’t get to make myself breakfast (or help clean up the one that was made for me, thanks, Love.) I didn’t get to write the blog that was spinning in my head. I didn’t get to journal or plan my day. I didn’t get to take care of myself. I just got up, fed Noah, scarfed down my breakfast and jumped in the car. (And I forgot to take something important to work.)

But, remember, I had a good reason.

So it’s okay, right?

My dad spent a year overseas with the military when I was fifteen and my younger siblings were 8, 7 and 5. In many ways, I was a parent in his place that year to the littles. So when our church offered a parenting seminar, my mom asked if I wanted to go. It made sense, I was the other mom, so we went together. My mom has always been like a best friend to me and I always enjoyed doing things special with just her and this felt special, too.

This blog isn’t about parenting. But it’s about something I learned at a parenting seminar that has continued to impact me profoundly. The older I get, the more it means to me.

The only thing I remember from that day is that the speaker said, “There is no reason to ever ask your child WHY they did something.”

Wait, what? Isn’t that something everyone asks kids?

“Why did you color on the walls?!”
“Why did you hit your sister?”
“Why did you do the thing I specifically asked you not to do?”

The speaker argued that if you ask the question “why?” then a child learns they can do anything, as long as they come up with a good enough reason.

J and I were talking the other day and he said, “I don’t know why I keep doing this thing!” I honestly don’t remember what he was talking about, but I do remember we were driving, so he was probably hanging out in the left lane, not passing anyone. Grrr.


The seminar, from half my life ago, came ringing back in my ears and I told him about it. Then I asked, “If you could justify why you kept doing it, would that make it okay to keep doing?”

I guess it wasn’t just me this idea rocked. His response was visible.

“It’s not about ‘why’ at all.” He said, relieved. “Has asking why ever helped anyone?” Now he seemed mostly frustrated.

Like someone had told him they’d sent his kitty to live on a farm where it would be happier with lots of land to roam and animals to play with, when they really just put the cat down. And he’d just learned the truth twenty years later.

Just like that. “I don’t want to keep doing it. ‘Why’ doesn’t matter, all I know is I don’t want to.”

And he’s never driven in the left lane since.

Just kidding.

It’s not like it really solves the problem instantly.

What it does is fix our approach to the problem.

Instead of ‘Why’ the question becomes ‘How’, which is a much more helpful question.

It’s not ok to hit your sister. How do you feel? It’s ok to feel ______. What’s a better way to handle that feeling?

I need to wake up early and get things done today. How can I train myself to get out of bed when the alarm goes off?

I find the “Why” question leading me straight to Shame: Why did I…? Because I’m so stupid, lazy, forgetful, etc.

SHAME. I’m a bad person.

Asking How and What, though, say: I made a mistake. Let’s fix it next time.

If you want to get unstuck, don’t ask why you’re there. Ask how to get out.

And, please, for all our sanity, stay out of the left lane.


One thought on “Asking “Why?” is Keeping You Stuck

  1. Shari says:

    I love you!! Do not feel shame for occasionally sleeping in! It is a pamper yourself day (occasionally) and you deserve it!
    Now…. I love this life lesson. Not just in parenting, but in all things.
    Thank you for sharing!
    Love,Auntie Shari


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