The Daily Groove

The Joy of Being Known

Think of a beloved friend or family member who knows you so well s/he can practically "read your mind." Someone who knows what pleases you without having to ask.

Doesn't it feel good to be known like that?

Children naturally want to be known by their parents in that way. But parents inadvertently weaken that connection when they constantly ask their kids what they want.

The idea that it's rude not to ask comes from our culture of alienation. In cultures of intimacy, to be asked one's preferences is to be treated like a stranger.

Today, whenever you're about to ask your child's preference, first ask yourself if you already know enough to make a choice that will please him or her. If not, go ahead and ask. If so, act without asking.

If your child objects to your decision, simply take in the new "data" and adjust course, this time or the next. Now you know your child a little better.

Comments (closed)

asking kids what they want

Wow Scott! My son often gets annoyed with me when I ask him what he wants. Sometimes he just doesn't respond at all. I have tried to reduce the amount that I do it simply because it's obvivous that it annoys him but I haven't really understood what it's about. It's another cultural blindspot I guess similar to Naomi Aldort saying that most children don't like being tickled WHAT? it's part of being a child in our culture, & yet my son has made it very clear he hates it. In a similar way we think why wouldn't a child want to constantly be asked what they want? Because there is something better. I recently watched a new version of Jane Eyre on TV when Jane (who had a very love deprived childhood) is defending the man she loves she says, "He was the first to recognise me & to love what he saw"
The words stayed with me because I thought that's what I want to give my son.
Thanks Scott

Being known is intimate

I like this one. What it makes me think of are the times that I DO act without asking my son first. His face lights up and I get a "Thank you, Mom!" because of the desire/need/want that has been fulfilled without him even expressing it.

Melissa R

Re: The Joy of Being Known

Someone asked me...

If you constantly give your child what they need/want without them asking first, isn't that going to teach them that they don't need to ask/verbalize what they need/want from other people too?

Yes. And no. :) Over time your child will learn that there are different kinds of "other people" — those with whom they share a deep connection and understanding, and those who don't really know them. Constantly asking children what they want implies that you assign yourself to the second category.

It's not wrong to ask them if they want something, but if you refrain from asking when you are reasonably certain you know what they like, then both of you get to have the delicious experience of connectedness that comes with knowing and being known — a.k.a. intimacy.

Another advantage of not asking is that it can reduce complicated negotiations and decision-making processes. For example, if my daughter has been playing awhile and I ask, "Do you want something to eat?" we might get into a contentious back-and-forth over what she thinks of vs. what I believe would be best for her and what I'm willing to prepare for her. Instead, I just think "She's probably hungry; she'd probably enjoy an apple, which I'd feel good about her eating; I'm willing to slice up an apple the way she likes it." A minute later I show up with a bowl of apple slices and say, "Here's some apples you might enjoy." (Or I might say nothing at all.) I set it down next to her and walk away, implying she's free to take it or leave it. Usually she's delighted and thanks me for the unexpected treat. The thought of junk food never even enters her mind. :)

Hope that makes sense. If not, you'll be even more confused by the next groove: The Joy of NOT Being Known!


PS: My perspective on asking has been influenced by an excellent article entitled Questioning Questions. The article relates to "Focusing", a self-awareness technique that I highly recommend, but the insights about questions are relevant to any interpersonal communication. You might want to read my intro to Focusing first.