If You Know Why, You Can Deal With How

What if you I told you that you had to get up tomorrow at 5:00 am and bike 30 miles? And, do it all uphill? Most moms would say they were incapable of doing it.  But let’s change the the circumstances a bit. What if I told you that everyone who biked by 6 am. to the outlet mall got 95% off of all their purchases? A few moms who three seconds ago would never consider such a venture would now be reaching for the WD40 to tune up a bike. Many women would make the trek.


So what has changed? Not our capacity. Not the conditions. The motivation changed.

In Victor Frankl’s powerful memoir, Man’s Search for Meaning, the author explains how he survived the horrors of a concentration camp. He says, “If you know your ‘why’ then any ‘how’ is possible.” Knowing why we are doing something gives us the power to deal with how to do it.

Recently, I heard my baby make a muffled cry in his crib. I immediately felt the flood of angry emotion amp up my mind, mouth and muscles. I knew that my two-year-old, Mikey, had crawled into the crib with the baby and covered his face. When I walked in not only was Mikey in the baby’s crib, he was having a bounce-house moment as well. I didn’t want to react in anger, so I took some advice from earlier posts at The Power of Moms. I said a small prayer and counted to ten. I even had to jump up and down about a bit to diffuse my anger.

I slowly walked to my toddler and gently lifted him out of the crib. Mikey explained, “Jonny sad, Mommy. Me give Jonny teddy bear!” I replied, “Oh, you were trying to help Jonny boy with the bear?” I used simple, kind language to teach him to stay out of the crib. Mikey hugged me and then ran on his way.

I felt no adrenaline, no anger and no guilt. Typically this kind of scene would have been me running in out of fear. I would have yanked Mikey out of the crib and scolded him for potentially smothering the baby. All of it would have ended in Mikey crying. But, this time, I did it differently. I made a new choice. I gained some self-control and self-respect. I gained the power to find my how because I knew why.

Think of the possibilities if we know why:

  • If you know why you want to treat your children with respect, then you will see options to get your temper under control.
  • If you know why an organized, sanitary home is important, then housework will not be a resentment and you will find energy to do it.
  • If you know why your personal health is vital to your family happiness, then finding time to exercise will become less of a frustration.
  • If you know why one-on-one time with each child is essential, then creating that time each day will become a priority.
  • If you know why planning the family week brings peace, then creating the plan on paper will feel less stifling or overwhelming.
  • If you know why you are uniquely qualified to nurture your children, then confidence and peace in your mothering will feel possible.

Keep in mind that sometimes the “why” behind a positive action might not come until after we’ve given it a try. I’ve always “known” I needed to make healthy choices for my body. It wasn’t until after I started consistently exercising that I discovered why: my energy levels soared, my headaches disappeared, and I slept better. Have faith in yourself as a mother that the wisdom of “why” will come.

Because mothering is at times hard, mothers we must have a firm handle on why we mother deliberately. If we lose sight of the whys, then we’ll lose our capacity with the hows. Mothering can become overwhelming. However, when we know why, we are filled with purpose, power and joy.

QUESTION:  What aspect of your mothering is bothering you the most?  Why is that aspect important to you?

CHALLENGE: Write out why you want to do or be that thing. When you struggle with it, reread what you have written. Post it some place visible. Consciously remember why.

Photo by Dan at www. freedigitalphotos.net


  1. says

    This is a great post Dawn. I’ve been considering putting a pillow over my 11 year old’s head lately.

    This past week I took a cool off, and asked myself why.

    It does help a lot.

    Just try not to veer into, “WHY DID I HAVE THESE CHILDREH?” 😀

  2. Sue Baltes says

    While I always have respect for mothers who choose not to get angry I think there is a time for real discipline. A two year old is more than old enough to be taught to stay out of a baby’s crib or face more severe consequences when he disobeys. When a situation is so potentially dangerous as this one it’s great to try and be patient but the possible outcome is not worth trying to avoid hurting a two year old’s feelings. Perhaps finding a way that your son can’t get into the baby’s room unsupervised is a way to accomplish all objectives.

  3. Dawn Wessman says

    Sue, I agree it is a serious thing he needs to learn. I’m not so much trying to not hurt his feelings as I am trying to learn to get ahold of my own emotions and act calmly. I tend to overreact often, so I am trying to learn how to help them behave minus the “bite” that accompanies my frustration. I would never grab or yell at my neighbor’s child, so that tells me I am capable of getting myself under control with my own.
    Hilary, that’s a great one!

  4. Sue Baltes says

    Dawn, I too am one who overreacts. While I still would deal with that particular situation with corporal punishment in our family, I have been looking for ways to just stop, get control of my own emotions and then try to deal with whatever the problem is. I have been getting better (only a little though)and my husband and I are always striving to learn new ways to better the communication with our children.

  5. Cheryl says

    Sue I don’t think we need to be critical of Dawn. I admire the way she taught her child instead of screamed and yelled at him. “Real discipline” does not mean screaming, yelling and spanking. The root of discipline is disciple and to be a disciple means to be taught. Teaching is our job as mothers.

  6. Dawn Wessman says

    What do you find that helps when you get angry? I tend to flare up: I am momentarily mean, and then it melts away and I’m a rational adult. If only the flare didn’t ignite. Maybe I need to practice my reactions ahead of time- many situations repeat themselves and I can anticipate and prepare myself. Addressing the roots of the repeated behavior (Sue’s idea to lock the door) is wise. I think the idea that it’s a communication issue is wise too. Maybe I feel the anger because I subconsciously think it’s the communication tool that is going to work the best. Maybe what I need to learn isn’t so much to dissipate my anger as it is to get some better skills to communicate what I want.
    We’ve been practicing some intervention behavior training from my hubby’s school. The philosophy is teach, teach, teach. There are about 40 core behaviors that they model and teach over and over again (the basics- eye contact, nodding the head, how to accept an instruction, how to apologize) and this has seemed to help us all. The kids know what to do with an instruction and I know better how to teach instead of angrily grabbing a three year-old and plopping him on the step. I liked Saren’s ideas of having pre-planned consequences to the breaking of the five family laws; that way I can rely on the pre-agreed terms of our family laws instead of handing out punishments based on my mood.
    I’m being a little hard on myself as I analyze my parenting (we probably all are) but I figure if something is really bothering my about myself, I might as well face it. I am holding on to the idea that I might have something special to offer my children, though, despite my imperfections.

  7. says

    I have a philosophy that if we want our children to respect us, we must treat them with respect. If we wouldn’t grab our neighbors child and yell in their face or our spouse or friend then why is it okay to do it to our child? That has helped me a lot in my disciplining…keeping respect for my child as a person at the forefront.

  8. says

    forgot to say…I think spanking has it’s place. When my children run out into the road they get a spanking…when my son was in the front seat of the car trying to put it in reverse to drive, he got a spanking. When something is extremely dangerous and yet they are still flirting with it, a spanking can let them knwo how serious it is. But we still have a conversation about it and talk about it as well.

  9. Anna Jenkins says

    Thanks Dawn. This reminds me of the act/react scenario. Often as parents we tend to react to things our children do and that almost always ends in tears or anger. I hope that I can remember to see the “why.”

  10. Tabatha says

    I have a quote in my kitchen (where we spend most of our time) “The way we speak to our children becomes their inner voice”. When I am frustrated and want to yell, I remind myself how much impact I have on the way they see themselves.

  11. says

    Dawn I love what you’re saying here! Respectful teaching moments have a positive and lasting impression on a child.

    And Tabatha, thank you for the quote. I have another… “But the hearts of small children are delicate organs. A cruel beginning in this world can twist them into curious shapes. ― Carson McCullers

  12. Elsje Denison says

    Dawn, I love your description of the adrenaline that comes in that moment of loss temper. So often I react, flying off the handle, and then feel awful after. But then I get upset when my kids do the same. I love your idea to practice. I make my kids roll-play when they need to practice how to behave in a situation. Why shouldn’t I do the same?

  13. Brooke Miller says

    Dawn, This is a powerful concept of focusing on the “why.” All my life experiences have taught me that if I can identify the “why,” I am 100 times more likely to follow through with the behavior/choices that are the best. I haven’t thought about this for a while, so this article was an excellent trigger for me to remember why I have set my priorities as I have, and rededicate myself to “hows.” Thank you!

  14. Adrianne says

    I think anytime parents can react in a calm collected manner and not last out in anger or hit their kids the parent has “won”. Do we want out kids to obey because they know the reason why or because they are afraid of mom and dad and the potential “pain” associated with disobeying.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *