One Helpful Parenting Question: “What Do You Think?”

Last week, I was in Oklahoma visiting family. To give you a full picture, this means five adults and nine children, nine and under. As you might imagine, it was quite the adventure with the four boys in ultra wrestle-mania mode and the girls rearranging furniture, all in between feeding them, bathing them, and generally managing the chaos.

The purpose of this extended trip was the kids’ attendance at the children’s camp, Woolaroc. The grounds of this museum and wildlife preserve are incredible. Rolling hills, buffalo (both the water and fluffy versions), horses, longhorn cattle, llamas, and one petite, beautiful zebra. I was the chauffeur, relishing this twenty minute drive twice a day to and from camp as a welcome change from the adventures of all being in the house together.

For the most part, the trips with the kids were uneventful. However, on the final of six mornings, we passed a building that we had passed every morning prior. Except, this time my oldest nephew read it. Out loud. To the entire car:

“‘The Best Weed Store.’ Huh. Why would anyone want to buy weeds?”

It was one of those moments. The ones we’ve all had when we face a question that dares to open their eyes to knowledge we aren’t sure we are ready to talk about yet. Or, they’re not ready to hear yet. Or (as in my case) not all the humans in the car are mine and I’m not sure how their parents would like me to handle a question about “the best weed.” So, I said the only thing I could think of:

“What do you think?” (a moment of silence followed)

“I guess some weeds are pretty. Maybe that’s why…” and they all began talking, joking, and being too loud—just as they were before.

Thank goodness. While this particular situation was no big deal, I am so grateful for the “what do you think” question that can solve more than a few of our awkward parenting moments until we can figure out how we would like to proceed:

  • When we aren’t ready to give an answer yet.
  • When they aren’t developmentally ready for the answer.
  • When we are with children who aren’t ours.
  • And, when we truly don’t know the answer.

I know for me, sometimes when my kids ask a question, I feel the pressure a) to know the answer and b) to answer it fully. But, just because a child asks a question, it doesn’t mean we have to (or it’s even appropriate to) fully answer every detail. Very often, they already have some idea of what they think the answer might be. And, once we hear their reply, then we are better equipped to correct them, enhance their understanding, or simply say:

“Yep, some weeds sure are pretty buddy.”

Sometimes, the perfect answer is simply their own explanation.

Photo by 张 学欢 on Unsplash, used with permission

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