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That Blessed Phrase

It’s already been a week since I last posted. Wow, time flies. Especially when you’re trying to write a book about spending meaningful teaching moments with your kids while you beg them to leave you the heck alone so you can get something done. Ha, I’ll get it eventually. I hope. Nevertheless, it’s now Friday and in an effort to blog about something that won’t be a complete waste of your time, I find my mind turning to one of my favorite child-raising phrases.  I use this blessed phrase probably a dozen times a day–it’s the perfect reply to most all requests or problems my kids try to hand me (figuratively).

Ready for it? Here it is:

“So, what can you do about it?” (Btw, this is not meant to be said in a sassy brat voice. It’s meant to be said in a sweet, supportive, “I’m sincerely curious” voice).

Sounds simple enough, right? As non-revelatory as it may be, however, that little phrase right there gets their problem-solving wheels turning in their heads like no man’s business. I am in love with the way that phrase shifts the responsibility for finding a solution from my shoulders, to where it rightfully belongs–on theirs. I want my kids to be independent because independence is fertile soil in which confidence can thrive. Lol. Okay, pause with me for a moment and laugh at that ridiculously cheesy sentence that just came out of my mouth. I’d erase it, but it’s kind of perfect so I’m going to leave it be.

Because I value the development of my kids’ independence, my goal is not to raise minions who blindly depend upon me to tell them how I would solve every problem that comes their way. No, my goal is to raise kids who think for themselves and have the confidence to attempt to solve their own problems.

Let me give you some simple, yet specific examples of how I use this in my home:

When P-Man, my Kindergartner, comes to me and says, “I’m hungry,” I don’t jump up and grab him a snack (and solve his problem for him). I reply with that simple thought-provoking phrase–“So what can you do about it?” He’ll think for a moment then grab a plastic bowl from the kid shelf and take it to the pantry to fill it with pretzels. Or goldfish. Or whatever I’ve placed on the bottom shelf so they can take care of their own hunger.

When I tell my four-year-old Little Lady that it’s time to get dressed and she opts for freshly folded clothes on top of the dryer, she lets me know she can’t reach her clothes. Guess what I respond with? Yup–“So what can you do about it?” She’ll think for a moment, walk into the laundry room, flip an empty laundry basket over and stand on it so she can reach her things.

This phrase has also recently helped one of my older boys, T-Dawg (he can thank his dad for that nickname) think through a time management issue he was having. T-Dawg has a fun habit of being the last kid in bed almost every night. It gets old so we started enforcing a rule that if he wasn’t in bed by the time we tucked in our other three kids, he’d miss his tuck-in. Three days later he missed his tuck-in and he was upset. Very upset. The magical phrase, “So what can you do about it?” gave him serious thought that night. After several minutes he offered up a couple solutions–he could get his drink of water right after family prayer and grab his book he’d read that night at homework time instead of bedtime. It’s only been three days since I laid down “the phrase” but so far, so good. When he slips up again, I’ll throw out the phrase once more and see if anything better comes of it.

Finally, as with anything you want to continue happening in your home, don’t forget to lay on a little positive attention. I like to recognize these thought-out moments of theirs with a high-five, thumbs up, or something as simple as, “Way to solve your own problem!”

It works. I promise.

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