A Case for Curiosity
Curiosity or Judgment. Which do you jump to most readily?
After years (decades, really) full of judgment ~ mostly for myself, but if I’m going to be honest, also for others ~ learning how to exercise my curiosity muscle the last few years has been a game-changer. Especially in my relationship with my son.
Judgment, by nature, is a form of comparing. There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with comparing ~ we do it all the time:
*I judge strawberries are better than… any other fruit!
*I believe it’s best to get an early start to your day, rather than waste the day by sleeping late.
*I think eating together as families, rather than everyone eating alone, is vital to the overall well-being of each member of the family.
But when it comes to our sons, judgment can build walls of misunderstandings that eventually become impenetrable barricades. Let’s be honest ~ it doesn’t matter how “right” we are if he never really hears what we have to say. And, do any of our boys want to open themselves up to a different view point, especially when he assumes we (the parent) believe he’s always wrong, and furthermore, he has no valid reason to think as he does?
Please know ~ I am not advocating that you just roll over and be OK with whatever your son is doing. Nor am I suggesting there shouldn’t be consequences for broken rules and misbehavior. As the parent, you have to deal with the daily details of what’s happening. But, you don’t have to outright dismiss his thinking, his reasoning (no matter how crazy it is!) as nonsense because it doesn’t agree with yours.
You certainly can, but you don’t have to. It’s not the only option. And this is where curiosity comes in.
Curiosity, by nature, is having an interest or a desire to know and understand something or someone. Some people are naturally more curious than others, but curiosity is something even we non-naturally-curious types can learn to cultivate. And I would suggest that if you are consumed by anguish or fear for your son, there’s no better time than now to be curious.
Has the judgment gotten you the result you want? Is it improving your situation? Is your relationship with your son being strengthened by it?
Judgment puts us on opposite sides; curiosity opens the gate to let the other person in.
Judgment assumes there is only one right way; curiosity allows for the possibility of multiple options.
Judgment breeds harsh feelings; curiosity can lead to compassion even if we don’t see eye-to-eye.
There are definitely times when we need to judge ~ situations and people. But this week, I challenge you to start noticing your automatic judgments of your son. For me, they used to sound like:
“He shouldn’t be doing that,” or “He’s doing it all wrong.”
Just noticing the judgment is a huge first step in making some room for curiosity. What are your go-to judgments about your son?
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER
In our quest for less judgment and more curiosity, I want to encourage you to ask some of these questions:
*I wonder why he thinks that is the best way to handle this situation?
*I wonder why he chose to lie?
*I wonder why he thinks we’re the enemy?
*I wonder why he’s always angry?
*I wonder why _____________?
If you really want to gain some curiosity about your own situation with your son, take 10 minutes and write down your answer to one of the “I wonder why…” questions above. It will be so much more insightful for you than just thinking the answer in your head! Pull out a piece of paper, type it on your computer, or open a “note” in your phone. Just getting your answers out of your head can help you see things more clearly. (And you can always rip it up or delete it when you’re done!)
A PIECE OF MY HEART
I wish I could remember every detail of this experience, but I cannot. However, the lesson I learned from it was seared into my mind. There is great power in curiosity!
It was at least a year or two ago. My son ~ the one we’ve had the most struggles with ~ and I found ourselves alone at home. We were in the kitchen and I had really spent some time trying to be more curious than judgmental. Since it was just him and me, I asked him ~ out of curiosity ~ to help me understand why he had done something. I don’t remember the specifics, but it was something he had done in the past. There was no fear of “consequences” or “reprimands”; I just really wanted to understand what drove him to the path he had taken.
For the life of me, I cannot remember his specific answer (and I’ve tried to remember, but actually, I don’t think it’s that important, really), but I clearly remember thinking, “Oh, that is not how I remember what happened, but knowing that is how he remembers it kind of makes his other choices and behaviors make a little more sense.”
If I would have been judgmental that day, I would have been more concerned about proving him wrong or explaining (probably relentlessly) why he remembered it all wrong. Instead, from a place of curiosity, I gained a greater understanding into the previous few years of heartache and angst and fear. And even though we disagreed on the specifics of what happened, our hearts connected in the kitchen that afternoon.
That is the power of curiosity. It can bring understanding ~ which does not necessarily mean agreement! It also brings a peace that cannot come from judgment. And who doesn’t parent better from peace?
If you haven’t tried it yet, give curiosity a go. You can open up the possibilities just by asking, “I wonder why…?” I encourage you to try it ~ but only if you want some peace. Because no matter what your situation is, peace is always possible.