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Monday, May 19, 2008

Just Think About It: Do You Have the Courage to Ask?

Many years ago as a baby shower gift, someone gave me the book Kids Are Worth It Too! by Barabra Coloroso. I remember reading the book and questioning much of what I read. Growing up in a very strict household, my brother and I received clear instructions regarding just about everything. Basically, our parents told us what to do, when to do it and how to do it. Period. We obeyed and respected all "the rules" for much of our younger years. We did not ask questions knowing the answer would be "because I said so." We did not dare take opposing positions, speak our minds or question any authority figure. Any attempt to do so would result in severe groundings. No. There were no beatings or any physical punishment, for they were unnecessary, thank God! For the most part my brother and I passively adhered to "the rules." So, as I read Coloroso's book, I realized perhaps for the first time in my adult life that there was another way to raise children, and it might produce good or even better results. In the book, Coloroso basically encourages parents to see and treat their children as people. At times, parents, me included, forget that our children happen to be human beings with feelings, dreams, ideas and insecurities. And so when my oldest child who is very inquisitive, opinionated and bright began to ask "why?" and I began to say "because I said so" and that answer still did not suffice, it hit me. The "because I said so" method did not work. I wanted to raise two strong, courageous, confident and knowledgeable individuals who would not be afraid to ask questions, defy authority when they saw injustice or abuse and display honesty and integrity. Therefore, on one specific occasion my oldest son, who was 5 or 6 at the time, asked why he could not play in the street with the older kids or ride bike. Instead of saying "because" I chose to give him a reason. It went something like this...If you play or ride bike in the street, a car may not see you because you are too small. If the car does not see you, it will hit you, break your bones and kill you. If you die, your mommy will die, too.

My precious son looked at me with these big sad eyes and said, "OK Mom. I don't want to play in the street. I don't want to die and I don't want you to die." He never again asked me to play or ride bike in the street until he was much much older. I can give you countless examples of the many times I chose to answer my children's questions, the easy ones and the very hard ones. No. I don't involve them in "everything" but I do offer honest and direct answers, advice and suggestions. I always have and hope I always will. The oldest is a teenager and the youngest thinks he's in his 30's, but they understand responsibility and accountability. They know how hard their father and I work to provide them with the things we never had, and so they know where money comes from or how much milk, gasoline and shoes cost.

And so where am I going with this? Don't be afraid to ask questions, but most importantly don't be afraid to answer them either. Why are we afraid to answer questions? Why are we afraid to say "I do not know the answer?" Why are we afraid to acknowledge that there is so much we do not know but need to know? How many times have we paid dearly for our ignorance? At some point in our lives, perhaps as we get older, some of those insecurities begin to fade away or the fear of looking like or sounding like a fool is just not as important as it once was. I don't know; I could be wrong, but maybe just maybe we become more comfortable in our own skin or walking in our own shoes and we begin to accept that face we see in that mirror every morning. Wearing purple seems most appropriate and if others find us strange or different, brushing it all off comes easy and quick maybe because we know ourselves a little more now than we did when we were younger. Regardless, at the end of our life, no living human person will travel with us, carry our baggage or light our way. We will only have ourselves.


  1. Such good parenting's easy to forget kids are people and it is only with explanation and encouragement to express themselves freely will they confidently grow into secure, happy, responsible adults.
    A great reminder on how to treat and raise children ..really at any age.

  2. I agree. We always need to ask what we don't know and admit when we don't know everything.
    I can't remember a time in my life I hadn't ask what I didn't know. One thing I did learn early was my Elders knew so much.
    It is funny now that some folks think my husband and I are Elders! But I still have the need to ask someone, somewhere, something everyday of my life.
    Good post and good thinking material.

  3. That was SUCH powerful powerful writing that I realized I was literally holding my breath reading it. I got to the end and took a deep breath and sighed with great joy. Your passion just shines in this post. I devoured your words like one breathes in rain-clean air or pine scented woods. They made me feel free and alive. Make sure you keep this post as it would make such an inspiring speech for your students or parents or ANYONE. It is extremely powerful and filled with good solid truth. It rings clear like a bell. So many of us crave to hear this kind of truth. Thank you my dear friend. Robin

  4. Your philosophy on raising kids is much like mine -- encouraging questions (and challenges) should lead to confident kids who are comfortable in their own skins.

    The ability to answer questions (in any situation) with an "I don't know," versus coming up with some answer that I haven't thought out -- well, I am working on that one. Oh, gee, I'm working on asking questions, too. Yes, it is a work in progress, and the time has come to push forward!

  5. Fantastic post! Honesty (in both questions and answers) is the best policy. By the way, I think we had the same parents!

  6. This was a wonderful fearless blog.I
    had the same parents.Unfortunately,
    my mother passed away yesterday afternoon. It was 05-19-08.


  7. Dear prof Cueto:
    As a young mother an your student, I listen very carefully to all the advises that you give and to the other people advises as well. But, your advises are just very helpfull. I remember that you mention that in class once, and I always try to apply it when I am with my kids.
    Thank you very much for your help.
    Geisa Gonzalez.

  8. This post is wonderful! What the other ladies have said really summed it up. My sister and I were "good" girls who never caused my parents any trouble. We were pretty much self-governed. "The Boy" presents challenges that I am still becoming accustomed to. Thanks for the veteran advice - Nards

  9. Thank you for this beautifully written post. :)

  10. Great post you have here. Great advice to young parents, and to us old folks, as well, who might be intimidated to speak our minds or question authorities when we see some things are not right.

    Thanks for visiting my site.

  11. That's a beautiful piece, Georgia. I so wholeheartedly agree.
    Reminds me of this lovely text by Kahlil Gibran
    There's nothing quite compares to being authentic and direct. :)
    Cheers, Thea

  12. I love the post! Your kids are very lucky to have you, as I was very lucky to have you as a teacher. I will apply this post when i have kids of my own. =)

  13. To my former students
    I am so happy to see you all reading my posts and leaving comments. I miss you and wish only good things for you.

    To my blogging friends
    Thank you for your constant visits and your inspirational words.

    This blog may be titled "The Fearless Blog" but if you read the smaller print you will see that I am here in search of inspiration, confidence and courage. I hope that together we can "all" find those qualities as we journey together.

  14. and her Mom said,
    When I raised my son, I always encouraged questions. Last week, he graduated from law school with high honors while holding down a full time job as well.
    If we are not allowed to think for ourselves, to make our own mistakes and have the experiences of our own choices both good and bad, then we have not fully realized life.


    Thank you for the kind words and oh my gosh we must be sisters! :) I hope you stop by again.

    Congratulations to your son and to you, for I am sure you were a driving force in his life. What a wonderful gift!

  16. I agree withyou,but sometimes we may be frightend by the response we get,and other times we are jus too scared!


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