My son, Sam, always best handles instructions or requests of him if he feels he has a good, solid understanding of what’s going on. Not just the nuts and bolts of the situation, but most importantly, the reason for it.

If we ask or tell him to do something, one of his first responses is usually, “Why?” This simple question can be enough to immediately turn up the frustration dial on my emotions amp. When I was growing up, if I was told or asked to do something by my parents or teachers, asking “Why?” was an exercise in futility. The answer, even if accompanied by an actual reason, usually involved the words, “Because I said so.” Not an uncommon answer, and perfectly reasonable from a parent’s perspective. Sometimes, asking “Why?” was heard as a challenge, rather than an honest request to understand. It usually meant, “Why do I have to do it?” Asking for a reason why I should do what I was being told, or why I should comply with a request was simply viewed as disrespectful. It implied that I, as a child, should be able to decide if my parent’s request or imperative was worthy of my time, and that I should have to agree to their reasons before being obedient. So when I tell my son to do something, or worse, ask him to do please do something, and his response is, “Why?”, my respect radar goes off and red flags are thrown.

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