Investigative Parenting

NPN RTD featureThis post is written as part of the Round Table Discussions with Natural Parent Network volunteers. In an effort to discuss, support, and promote a kinder, more gentle world, we are taking an in depth view of various books. Our current book is No Drama Discipline by Daniel J. Siegel, M.D. and Tina Payne Bryson, Ph. D, authors of the book The Whole Brain Child. We hope you will join us with an open mind and a desire for change and growth.


Being a parent is sometimes like being an investigative reporter. Who? What? When? Where? Why? They seem like simple enough questions. Who was involved (or the ever popular Who did it?)? What happened? When did it happen? Where did it happen? But did you forget the Why?

For years I have been saying that parents need to ask the question, “Why?” when it comes to their children’s behavior. People, children included, always have a reason for doing something. Sometimes we don’t know what that reason is. Sometimes the child doesn’t know what the reason is, but it is there nonetheless.

Photo from Flickr (andercismo)

Photo from Flickr (andercismo)

There is a saying in the scientific community that if you want to find a solution to a problem, you first have to know what the problem is. This is true in life, including parenting. If your child is exhibiting a specific behavior, you can’t truly begin to address the behavior until you understand the reasoning behind it. Sometimes the reasoning can be easy to figure out. Sometimes it requires some of those top-notch investigative parenting skills, including active listening, a basic knowledge in child development, and an open mind to working together. And sometimes, the real reason may be entirely different from the one you assumed.

The thing is, until we stop and pay attention to the reasoning, we will never fix the problem. Either the problem will continue or morph into some other issue. Until we look at the why, we won’t be able to help our children learn better ways of handling situations, the critical thinking skills to come up with innovative solutions, or the communication and social skills to work with other people in a consensual manner.

The next time you experience some sort of conflict going on with your child, put on your figurative reporter’s hat and ask yourself why.



ask why…

A key point I’ve tried to stress to parents for years is that there is always a reason. There is a reason for everything that every person does. We may not easily recognize it, but it is there somewhere. When faced with a specific behavior from our children, it is important to ask, whether verbally or not, “Why?” The wording may be different. We may just need to internally ask ourselves the question. However, we cannot fully understand the situation if we do not understand our child’s feelings, thoughts, and needs. We need to listen to our children – to their words, expressions, body language, and tone – to find out why. By actively listening to them, we can find the route cause of a behavior and more effectively work with our children.

the question of why…

The first question most children ask is why? This simple question holds much power, for inquiry is about much more than yes and no answers. It is about discovery, asking and re-asking, synthesizing, and evaluating until we can reach an answer that resembles something close to the truth. Inquiry is more than merely an act; it is a value. It is important not to get caught up on the answers but to focus on the questions, for with questions comes understanding, regardless of the solution.

This natural inquisitiveness is apparent at birth; it is not something which needs to be taught. It can, however, be prohibited by many, as inquiry and exploration are risky – they open us up, broaden our understanding of the world, and lead to change. Children growing in an environment of unconditional trust are inclined to explore and ask questions.