I have a very inquisitive 6 year old son. He asks a lot of questions and I'm generally patient with him. However, I find that I get irritated with him when he asks me personal questions like where I am going or what I am doing there. (If I tell him I am going to a meeting, he asks me "with whom?" and I don't feel this is something he needs to know). He also questions my motives – particularly when it comes to his care. For instance, if I tell him that I want him to turn the computer off now, he asks "why?" If my answer isn't satisfactory to him, he starts a whole debate. I like that Jordy is a clever little guy but I don't like having to explain myself or defend myself all day. And I really dislike arguments. Can you help me?


It's great that Jordy is curious and clever. You can encourage those traits by discussing all sorts of interesting topics with him, exploring ideas that you and he encounter in books, on-line and in the world at large. There are plenty of opportunities for debate and discussion – so don't worry about stunting his intellectual development if you have to sometimes limit a discussion. In particular, you may want to limit some discussions about your personal activities and motives.

A child needs information about the world, but he also needs information about how people get along. He needs to learn about boundaries, for example. A parent can tell a child "I'm going out and I'll be back in an hour" without having to explain to the child where he or she is off to. Some parents may not mind giving all the details, but it is certainly fine to want to keep that information to oneself as well. Adults don't have to explain to children what they are doing and why. If, after you've given your answer, your son asks you for more details, you can politely say "I've told you everything you need to know, Sweetheart. The details aren't important for you to know." Soon he'll learn that there are some questions (personal ones!) that you will not respond to and, being bright, he'll stop asking them! Teaching personal boundaries to kids helps prevent them from becoming intrusive. There are some adults who ask too many questions. They annoy their friends and acquaintances with inappropriate interrogations. Judaism values interpersonal sensitivity and communication skill. The dictum "do not do unto others that which you do not want done unto you" covers so many principles of communication. If you don't enjoy being interrogated by others, you can rest assured they don't enjoy being interrogated by you. Following the teachings of our sages, you can help your son to understand interpersonal boundaries and respect them, thereby helping him to enjoy better relationships throughout his life.

As for Jordy's tendency to question your motives, this too is a boundary setting opportunity. You can, for the sake of being polite and reasonable, give him one brief explanation for any request that you make. For instance, you can say "Please turn off the computer now because I want you to start getting ready for bed." However, if your son doesn't like that particular reason, you can then say, "Then turn it off because I asked you to." The second reason simply invokes parental authority. Instead of trying to come up with a reason for your request that meets your six year old's standards, you simply let him know that you are in charge. This sets the boundary that this relationship is not a democratic one in which each party gets a vote. If Mom asks you to do something, she has her reasons for doing that and you comply. The authoritative stance in which fair, reasonable, loving and firm parents take the lead in the household has been shown in psychological research to be the position that offers the best developmental outcome for youngsters. Our source of wisdom, the Torah, has directed us to the use of authoritative parenting for thousands of years. Laws embedded within the 5th commandment urge parents to take a confident and respectful leadership role vis a vis their children.

As a parent, you love your child and you will make the best decisions you can on his or her behalf – and that is what you are supposed to do. You don't have to be able to explain everything or justify everything to your child, or even to yourself. Sometimes your "gut" instinct (parental intuition) is guiding you. So do what you feel is best and answer only those questions you feel comfortable answering. You're on the right track.