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Yesterday when I picked up Elijah from school, I did the same thing nearly every parent does when they see their children at the end of the day: I asked him, “How was your day?”
I actually hate that question. It’s so cliché, but even more so, it never really invites real conversation since the only answers you are likely to get are “Good” or “Fine.” Somedays Elijah will be really excited about something that happened, such as when he “clips up” to purple (the best spot on their behavior charts) and gets a prize. Otherwise, he doesn’t elaborate much with that question.
So, I generally try to ask more engaging, open-ended questions, such as, “What was the best part about today?” While that has been a decent question to get Elijah sharing, I wanted to be asking questions that encouraged him to see his day in a new way.
Since reading Kristen Welch’s (We are THAT Family) new book, Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World, I’ve found myself rethinking certain things that I say and do as a mom and how that sets my children’s expectations and attitudes.
For example, asking Elijah if he had a good time or fun day at school (or church or his grandparents, etc), reinforces the idea that he should always be having fun or made to be happy. Hmmmm.
As Kristen shared,
“I bought into the lie that it’s my job to make my kids’ childhood magical and fun, to guarantee that every day will be an adventure all about them.”
If that’s how we think, that’s what our children will expect. They will think life is 1) all about fun, and 2) all about them. Neither is true.
Kristen explained it this way,
“I think this requirement of being happy all the time is where entitlement thrives. In my parenting poll, when I asked, “What do you want most for your kids?” there were two main answers: I want them to follow Christ, and I want them to be happy. Sometimes both aren’t possible at the same time. Think about it. If we fix every problem, cater to every need, and bend over backwards to keep our kids happy all the time, we are setting them up for a false reality because life won’t always offer them the same courtesy.”
Sure, it’s an innocent question. Will he have a good time and fun at those places? Hopefully. However, he’s not going to school or church to be entertained or amused or comfortable. He’s going to learn and grow. (PS: Adults, church and school are not for YOUR entertainment or comfort, either. That whole “learning and growing” thing is for us, too.)
Spending time with family is not just about him, either. Is Grandpa fun? Yes. Will Grandma feed Elijah? Most likely. Does Elijah have to be the center of attention, or doing just what HE wants to the whole time we are there? No. I want him to be aware of others, even considering others before himself. I hope that I am doing the same.
So, instead of asking questions that make Elijah feel as though everyone else’s world should revolve around him and every day should be super awesome just for him, I want to ask him questions that shift his focus a little bit.
Yesterday, God put this question for Elijah in my heart.
While we were working on his snack, I asked him, “So, did you get to help anybody today?”
He paused for a second, and then his face lit up. LIT UP.
“Yes, well, sort of. I tried to help Harley with her coat, but I had my gloves on, so I couldn’t zip it all the way.”
Today, his answer was, “No,” somewhat sadly. Then, “No, wait! I DID help someone. I helped Julian tie his shoes.”
Do I want him to feel as though he HAS to do good deeds all day long? No. It’s not about works. It’s about awareness and perspective.
What if my asking him this one question each afternoon causes him to look for opportunities to reach out and help others every day? And what if my asking him that question does the same for me?
It’s just a reminder to think of others at least once during our day.
Then maybe one day when I ask him “What was the best part of your day?” and “Did you help someone today,” the answer to both will be the same thing.
That would be pretty cool.
For more of my thoughts on Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World:
You can pre-order Kristen’s book, which releases on January 26, by visiting RaisingGratefulKids.com or from Amazon, Christianbooks.com, or Barnes & Noble. If you’d like to read the first chapter, you can find it here.