Wednesday, February 4, 2015

I Plead the Fifth! ~ Do Moms Have to Answer Every Question?

We were all sitting at the breakfast table one Saturday morning, preparing for some errands, my husband listing out the items he needed at Menards and how much they might cost. The 11yo swallowed a bite of oatmeal and then asked in a loud voice, “How much money do you make, Dad?”

My husband and I just looked at each other, unsure how to respond. Did our son really need to know his father’s income?

The Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution states that “No person shall be…compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself.” That common phrase, “I plead the fifth,” means that a person refuses to answer any question that may be self-incriminating.

I’m not calling us criminals. J

But we moms don’t have to tell all to our children. Please, don’t lie! But there is no requirement that we explain absolutely everything or answer thoroughly every single question our children ask.

God does not explain everything to us, yet we, when we're living in a right relationship with him, submit to his will. When our children respect and obey our authority without knowing all the whys and wherefores, they are learning about an adult relationship with the Lord.

When a child asks what we're giving him for his birthday, we don't tell him. It’s much the same way with larger issues, such as these questions ~

How much money does Dad make?
What do you and Daddy talk about when we go to bed?
Is that your secret chocolate stash? J
How much do you weigh?
Why can’t we watch that movie?
What do you write in your journal?
What was your life like before you knew Jesus?

Consider ~

~ Does the child really need to know everything, or would a partial answer suffice?
~ Will the knowledge provide a learning opportunity or benefit the parent-child relationship?
~ Will the answer be detrimental to our relationship? Could it have a negative impact on their respect?
~ What is the child’s motive for asking?
~ What does my husband say?

I think of the response of Corrie Ten Boom’s father when she asked him a question.

“He turned to look at me, as he always did when answering a question, but to my surprise he said nothing. At last he stood up, lifted his traveling case and set it on the floor. ‘Will you carry it off the train, Corrie?’ he said.

I stood up and tugged at it. It was crammed with the watches and spare parts he had purchased that morning. ‘It's too heavy,’ I said.

‘Yes,’ he said, ‘and it would be a pretty poor father who would ask his little girl to carry such a load. It's the same way, Corrie, with knowledge. Some knowledge is too heavy for children. When you are older and stronger, you can bear it. For now you must trust me to carry it for you.’”
~ Corrie Ten Boom, The Hiding Place

And my answer to our son? “Your father makes enough.”

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  1. I completely understand where you're coming from, and agree that our children don't need to know everything, especially about income. But I grew up in a home where my parents didn't tell me anything and it hurt me to not feel like I had their confidence. I have more of an open door policy and tend to explain quite a bit to my children because of my experiences, but I can also understand and respect your reasoning. I'm glad I found your post on the R&R link up.
    -Miranda at

    1. I'm so sorry for your hurtful experience, Miranda. Like you, we have a fairly open door policy and share nearly everything with our children because we don't want them to feel like they're not a part of our family unit. I just wonder, every now and then, if we're doing the right thing. We immediately come back to the same conclusion -- yes -- but I thought it might be helpful to organize these thoughts into a blog post for those who aren't sure. I'm glad you found the post also. Thanks for starting the conversation, and many blessings to you! :-)

  2. My 11 year old son asked the same question a couple of weeks ago....must be an eleven year old issue! My husband told him it wasn't anything he needed to concern himself with.

    1. Eleven is an interesting age to watch. Maturity begins to develop, and I think they ask as many questions as a four-year-old! :-)

  3. It's unfortunate there seems to be a trade-off between ignorance and mother always answered my questions fully no matter what they were, and I still feel it better to encourage probing by rewarding it with the whole truth - even though one needs to teach that some settings are certainly not appropriate for raising questions! In life, asking difficult questions is inevitably the most rewarding and productive path, but those answers come at the cost of our security. Perhaps to delay those costs does make more sense, and makes life that tiny bit more secure for children. And yours certainly don't seem to have sacrified their curiosity! Thanks -you raised a good question for me!

    1. "In life, asking difficult questions is inevitably the most rewarding and productive path." Well said, Helen! Something I didn't say in the blog is that my response varies depending on the age of the child. The five-year-old receives a different level of detail than the fifteen-year-old, simply because of the different maturity levels. You're making me think through this some more...a good thing! Is curiosity a desirable trait to foster in our children? If so, an open door policy would encourage that. But like you said, they need to learn when and where to ask the questions. :-)

  4. This sounds about what we do in our home. Gradually giving our children more information as we feel they mature into it. That's the way I was raised. Our children are still endlessly curious about life, so I don't think we're stunting them.

  5. Meghan, I have used that story from Corrie Ten Boom multiple times in raising my kids. Now they are all grown and married and still remember that story. There are just so many things that we took our time and told our kids only what they could handle. Good post!


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