“My day was awesome!” my son proclaimed when I picked him up from school. He proceeded to run down the events that led to such an awesome day – getting a piece of candy for helping out a teacher, being recognized on the school-wide announcements for getting an award and having a classmate share a prized possession with him, were among the highlights of the highlights. Not to mention it was Friday which meant pizza, video games and family movie night, near nirvana when you are seven years old. With so much excitement, it wasn’t surprising when bed time was met with resistance. After lying there for only a couple seconds, he declared that he couldn’t go to sleep. I could see that the pendulum was swinging to the point of being over tired and emotions were taking over. All of a sudden the “awesome” day was the “worst day ever” and tears were threatening. I wasn’t going to let him go down this path. I told him to remind his brain of all the awesome things that had happened today, to which he hopelessly replied “I don’t know how.”
Children are so honest. This openness doesn’t last long, because soon they realize that when they admit that they don’t know how to do something people think they are weak. We become masters of avoidance. We carefully tiptoe around situations where we would have to admit that we don’t know something. The other side of the coin is that we use “I don’t know how” as an excuse to get out of doing certain things, like a work project or a friend asking for help on a home improvement project. Imagine saying the words “I don’t know how” – how does that make you feel? Anxious? Embarrassed? Hopeless? Instead, why don’t we see “I don’t know how” as a new opportunity to learn and grow? It should make us feel excited, educated and empowered.
I took a deep breath and said to him “You do know how - just think about the list of all the great things you told me when I picked you ….” “But, I don’t know how!” I knew he was tired and fueling this argument would not help the situation, so I held my rebuttal. A few seconds went by. He whispered in a small voice “Can YOU say the list?” I quietly recounted all the things he had told me, plus the fun things that had happened while we had been home. His breathing slowed and he smiled while we remembered the great moments of the day. The awesome day was saved. On the inside I could barely contain myself, I was so excited for what had just happened. He saw that it was possible to turn your outlook around by focusing on the positive. It will take a lot of repetition and practice, but we’ve taken the first step and that’s all that matters today.
Journal on this: What does it feel like to say “I don’t know how”? How do you flip the script to be a positive?
*My next workshop, Setting Resolutions that Stick, is NEXT Sunday January 24th! Details are here, sign up today! If you don’t live in AZ, or can’t make it to the workshop, let’s schedule time to get on the phone and talk about what you need to do to make your resolutions/intentions work for you!
I started writing this blog because I wanted to have deeper conversations beyond "How are you?", "Busy", with other parents. Over the years I've shared personal stories, articles, authors and topics to facilitate conversations with parents about the joys and the challenges of parenting.