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Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Saying "I Don't Know"

Parents, when your kids ask you a question that you don't know the answer to, what do you normally do?
  • Say "I don't know"
  • Make something up
  • Ignore the question
In our house, we say "I don't know." However, I usually don't stop there, I follow up with "Hunny, I don't know but when Daddy gets home, let's ask him." If Daddy doesn't know, we'll do our best to find the answer and if this fails, then we simply say, "We really don't know."

Why do I bring this up? I've seen parents fumbling through words trying to come up with an answer so that they may not seem weak in front of their children. I've also been the recipient of the ignore-the-question tactic.

Years ago I read an article that contained two medical terminologies that I didn't know. I really wanted to know what these two terms meant so I asked my youth group advisor who was a father and an elder. He ignored me as if he didn't even hear the question. I sat there dumbfounded. I gave him the benefit of doubt, so I asked again. Same thing happened. This time I simply didn't understand why he didn't answer me. As persistent as I was, I followed him all evening and finally at the end of our youth group meeting, I asked again. Well, this time I had his attention. He turned to me and in an exasperated and raised tone said, "Lois, why do you keep asking me this question? I don't know the answer!" I didn't know what to say. I just left the conversation.

This had a very lasting impression on me. I still remember this incident to this day. Had he answered me with an "I don't know" right from the start, I would have been satisfied and wouldn't pursue him with the same question all night long. I believe he didn't want to appear dumb and thought that he could shoot me off by ignoring me.

I did learn from this experience. I've learned to say "I don't know" when I really don't know. I want to be honest with my children. There is really no sense in trying to fabricate or ignore. I don't believe my children think I'm dumb for not knowing or feel a sense of disappointment. In fact, my almost four year old recently taught me something that I didn't know.

About a week ago when Matthew and I were reading a book, we came across pictures of rams, goats, sheeps, and other animals. When he saw the ram, he told me that a ram is a male sheep. I said, "Really? I didn't know that. Thank you for telling me!" I then gave him a kiss and a hug. Now, do I appear to be a dork to him? I don't think so. Did I puff up his ego? Nope. He didn't really react to it. We simply moved on to the next page.

All in all, let's be honest with our children about our imperfection. If we want them to learn godly humility, we have to start with ourselves.