Parenting and 'answering questions' should almost be considered synonymous. Whether they're simple questions like 'What are we having for lunch?' or more complicated issues relating to drama or life decisions, the questions come fast and furious and don't seem to let up. As parents, we won't always answer those question correctly. But like the bumpers on a bowling lane, we can set up guards so that we answer even the toughest questions wisely. Those two guards are diligence and patience.
The temptation, especially after the hundredth question of the day, is to give quick, simple or dismissive answers: "You'll find out later," "No, you can't watch TV!" "I don't care what Justin's mom said, you're not going," and "Let me think about it and get back to you... never."
But these types of quick responses - lacking both diligence and patience - often force us to renegotiate or change our answers later. They teach our children not to trust us, to keep asking or nagging, and that our answers might change if they're asked enough times.
There are few wise decisions that ever come about through quick, hasty or rash decision making. Augustine said, "Patience is the companion of wisdom," and if we want to make the best decisions for our children, our answers need to be long in development. The larger the question, the more patience we need in making a decision. It's far better to tell our children, "You know, that's a tough question. Can I think about it and we can talk tomorrow?" than to make a hasty decision. We can show our children that big questions take a long while to answer - and that wisdom comes sometimes after days of looking for the solution, not just minutes.
We must also be diligent in answering questions. Diligence refers to careful and persistent work, and is the difference between patience and laziness. An unwillingness to carefully consider the nuances of a decision - eternally punting the answer to "I'll tell you in a bit," is foolish and unfair. Our children need our answers and wisdom, and we need to do the careful work to find answers.
Diligence requires seeking wise counsel - from our spouse, friends and Scripture - doing careful research and considering alternatives and potential pitfalls. Diligence involves quite a bit of work and it doesn't come easily.
If we're to make wise decisions consistently, our hearts as parents need to be guarded by both patience and diligence. We need to carefully and slowly consider our answers and stand by them, no matter how many questions we receive.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus encouraged his disciples to "Let your yes be yes and your no by no" - to stand by your word and let your resolve speak for itself. Jesus isn't asking us to stand by poor decisions! Instead, he's challenging us to not make poor decisions. He's challenging us that whenever we open our mouths our answers must be ones we can stand by and defend. But in order to make these sorts of answers consistently, we must be patient and diligent.