Ask Your Child, “How Did You Think About This?”

I learn that parenting is like insuring a climber tied to a rope — you have to know when to hold on tight and when to relax a little. (No, I’m not a climber myself, but I did an introductory lesson once using Groupon.) You want to make sure your kids are safe and not make stupid decisions, but you can’t follow them throughout their lives. , in a whisper: “Oh, are you sure of this move, buddy?” For them to reach new heights, sometimes you need to let go.

But how do you help them analyze situations and gain confidence in their choices in the process? I love this strategy from entrepreneur and investor Brian Johnson, founder of Braintree, OS Fund and Kernel. When his children complete a new venture, he invites them to answer this question: “What do you think about this?” In Tim Ferris’s book, Tools of the Titans, Johnson explains:

“So two weeks ago we got on an ATV – my 11 and 9 year old child and I – and I said, ‘Okay, I’m going to put on your helmets, I’ll give you 2 points.’ – a minute lesson on how to drive forward and how to drive backward, how to brake, I will give you some lessons – don’t go into a ditch, don’t go down a slope that will turn you over, etc. – but I’m waiting for you to come out for 5 minutes and you will return safely and tell me how you did it. What were your thought processes? How did you stay safe? What risks did you take? But I want you to do it, and I will not go with you. ” … They came back safe and sound and it was a good experience for them to tell me, “Okay Dad, this is how we look at risk, this is how we thought we could potentially face a problem…” They [even bumped into a tree] slowly .. . but they talked about it and I thought it really helped. “

When kids get back to school and have to navigate new campuses, new classrooms, and new social media (and probably some new childish slang their friends have picked up on Snapchat), there is a tendency to want to jump in and direct their every move. But after you learn the basics, you teach them more by letting them try something on their own and then reflecting on them later.

Ask them how they did it or why they think they have stumbled. For example, if your preschooler is climbing to the top of a playground dome, you might instead of just say “Great job,” ask her how she keeps her balance. Or, when your normally shy high school student announces that he has a new friend, ask him how the conversation started. Telling how they thought through these scenarios will enable them to use the same decision-making skills in other situations.

You are loosening the rope. This is scary and necessary.


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