Happy Friday from my Family to yours! 👋🏼
Today's story takes 3.5 minutes to read and I could use your insight if you have 1 minute afterward.
If you've been a regular reader for at least 3 months, I'd love to know which 1-2 emails have stood out the most. I'm working to compile a group of 10-12 emails that have been the most helpful or memorable from the past year.
If a couple have stood out, will you hit reply and let me know the idea or topic you've found the most helpful for your family? Thanks!
The Golden Phrase
We've spoken these three words to our kids more times than I can count. (Well, to be honest, I probably said it 80% of the total.)
It was used less when they were little, but with each year of their life, they heard it more and more. I know they grew tired of it and I'm certain I spoke it out of frustration on many occasions.
That doesn't mean it wasn't one of the most important staple phrases in our family though.
It may have been a staple in your home growing up. Or it could be underutilized in your family now. So what was it?
"Figure it out."
Kids have endless needs and questions. SO many needs and questions.
They desire to operate independently but don't have the skills oftentimes to take care of it themselves. So they come to you for help.
Sometimes it's out of true need. Other times it's out of laziness.
Get a snack.
Cue up a show.
Locate the iPad.
Start the homework.
Find the missing shoes.
Fix the problem of boredom.
The tendency in our home was to solve a lot of the problems that our kids brought to us. It became a grooved response.
"Dad, I can't find my backpack." So I'd stop what I was doing and go on the great backpack hunt.
"Mom, I'm hungry and don't know what to eat." So she'd start listing off snack ideas and make something while they sat there and watched.
It is natural. We all do it. But our kids need us to be better.
Now, the younger your kids are, the less often you can enlist this golden phrase, but you should start sooner than you think.
Try it out with your 5-year-old.
Use it often with your 8-year-old.
Learn to love it with your 12-year-old.
My daughter reminded me of the time when she taught herself how to use the microwave.
I'm sure we'd told her to get herself a snack when she was 7 or 8 years old. She grabbed some chicken nuggets out of the freezer but then had to reach the microwave.
She pulled out drawers, climbed up the cabinet, stood on the ledge and pulled off a Mission Impossible style stunt to use the microwave 6 feet in the air. Was it safe? Not really. Resourceful? Totally.
7 benefits of being a "figure it out" family.
1. Life is full of resistance.
Home is where you let your kids practice before you send them out to participate in the big world. If you smooth things out at home, they won't be ready for real life.
2. The joy of success only comes on the heels of frustration.
Yes, it is hard to watch your kids struggle. But seeing them think, scramble, and overcome is worth it for the joy they experience when accomplishing it themselves.
3. Kids are forced to develop resourcefulness.
Getting help from a sibling is positive. Failing three times before asking for help again is positive. Watching you closely to learn for next time is positive.
4. Kids will identify and express new emotions.
It may take your 8-year-old three trips to the laundry room to find a clean pair of pants. Then they become angry about it. Dealing with deep emotions in life is even more valuable than finding a pair of pants.
5. You empower them without abandoning them.
Kids need to feel security from their parents. Solving all their problems may provide a kind of security but long term it cripples them too. Encourage their efforts and be supportive without doing it all for them.
6. They will develop a strong grit muscle.
Grit is in short supply in our modern era. That determined spirit is lacking in most young American kids. Grit will take them far and it is only learned when kids are forced to solve their own problems.
7. You connect with them emotionally but don't fix it for them.
Your kids will still need your support and encouragement. They will want to quit quickly and will whine a lot because you aren't helping them with their problem. Affirm them before, during and after their attempts but let them go through the struggle cycle.
A couple of wrap-up principles to consider.
- Don't be a lazy parent and use the 'figure it out' phrase to not engage with the needs of your kids.
- Enlisting the 'figure it out' principle often creates even more work for you I'm afraid, but it is so worth it.
- You'd be unwise to ignore all the long-term development benefits that come from requiring your kids to 'figure it out' at least 1-2x a week as they are growing up.
Were you a 'figure it out' family growing up?
In what ways do you struggle to push your kids to 'figure it out?"
"Everyone is parenting in a direction, whether they've chosen that direction or not.
There may be some default direction built in. Sometimes our approach is just to parent the way we grew up. That can be a good thing or a bad thing if you didn't have strong models.
We are always parenting in a direction. It may be toward behavior modification or obedience. It may be toward academic excellence or sports.
We decided early on, that if we're going to parent with a relationship in mind, there are specific things we are going to focus on in different seasons.
How to honor other people.
How to restore broken relationships.
How to prioritize our most important relationships.
When we parented with a relationship in mind it gave us a framework and direction for our family."
Until Next Friday...
- If this connected with you in some way, another family might benefit from it too. Hit forward or share your unique link with them.
- Have a 10-13 year old and they are asking for a cell phone most every week? Let's equip your family and community of friends.
- If you're a regular reader, don't forget to reply back and let me know the 1-2 emails that have stood out to you the most!