There is a question you can ask your child on a daily basis that will make a major positive change in your life and theirs, although they may not think so at first.
Consider this scenario. Your family is spending the evening at home when you hear a large *CRASH* coming from the direction of your 7 year old son’s room. You listen for a scream but instead you hear the pitter patter of his feet running down the hallway. He comes in, breathless, and yells, “Mom! Dad!! I was getting my Marvel Captain America Blaster Reveal Shield out of the closet and the big bucket of legos fell out so now there’s a trillion legos on the floor!”
What would be your normal response? Most of us would likely get up and accompany him to his room for some sort of clean up situation. Not a horrible response but is there a better one? I say yes.
Instead of getting involved in solving the problem right away ask him,
“What are you going to do?”
or something similar like,
“What should we do?”
Imagine empowering your child to solve their own problems. Think of the confidence they will develop knowing that you, their all-knowing parent, believe they are capable of overcoming obstacles on their own. When they’re young, obviously they will need help coming up with solutions but just asking them the question will plant the seed that you have faith in them to figure things out.
About a week ago, I took my 6 year old daughter to the park to play with a couple of her friends. As it sometimes does, an argument broke out between them and they began yelling at each other. I was happy to discover that all of the parents that were there were like-minded and we all ignored the kids allowing them the opportunity to work it out on their own.
After a couple of minutes, my daughter ran over to me with tear in her eyes, “Mom we can’t play a game because I want to play dinosaur family, Jules wants to play kittens and Grant wants to play classroom! Now everyone is angry and I don’t want to play at all now!”
I responded with, “Wow that sounds like a bummer. What are you going to do?”
She looked at me and said, “I don’t know. Will you help??”
At that point I gave her some ideas of what she could do, 1) You can decide to play on your own, 2) You can agree to play one of their games instead of fighting to play dinosaur family, 3) You can ask them to play your game next if you agree to play their game right now, 4) We can leave the park and try playing with them again another day. In this particular situation she chose to play the game they wanted to play and all was well.
A key component of asking the “What are you going to do?” question is to give them multiple options, even if they aren’t all great. The point is to have them choose amongst them so that they feel the power and pride of making a decision and following it through. Of course, it doesn’t always go well but, well, that’s life, right? Try this for a week and watch your child grow before your very eyes (and watch your stress lessen as you stop trying to figure out every situation for them)!