Why do I have to do this?
If you’re a parent reading this, it’s likely you’ll need a calculator to add up the number of times your child has asked the following question.
“Why do I have to do this?”
It’s also likely that you’ve responded to this question, perhaps more than you want to admit, by saying, “Because I said so.”
Unfortunately, through the eyes of a child, this answer often conveys a sense of authority or control. What follows is a quest on the part of the child to push the very boundary you just created. Ultimately, their goal is to push so hard that you’ll eventually relent and give up pushing back.
Can you relate?
I want to share a parenting tool that will shift the focus away from your power and place it firmly in the hands of your child. It’s called finding the point in the pointless.
Below is an excerpt from my book, Seriously, Dad?, which describes how a parent might introduce this strategy to his child.
Dad: So, how did last week go? What circumstances triggered negative thoughts for you?
Daughter: The biggest one was when Mrs. Jones gave us a Pop Quiz in History class. It was full of questions that no one could answer. If you ask me, it was pointless.
Perfect. Let’s use that as our example of a circumstance. Just like the previous example of your friend saying something rude, I want you to know that the quiz itself wasn’t pointless.
Dad, how can you say it wasn’t pointless? What kind of teacher gives a quiz over material we didn’t even discuss in class?
Trust me, I understand your frustration. I’m just trying to point out that regardless of whether or not the quiz was fair, it was out of your control. Would you agree?
Well yeah, I don’t get to decide what’s on the tests.
Exactly. What you do get to decide is the lens you use with regard to the test.
Uh oh, it’s that MORE strategy isn’t it? I know what you’re going to tell me. Had I been able to monitor my thinking, I would have had a chance to own it, then replace it and that would have empowered me. But what thought could I possibly think that would have helped me feel better in this situation?
How about, “I’m going to find the point in the pointless.”
Think about it. If you would have looked for the point, you would not have given your power to the quiz or the teacher. Maybe the point of the quiz was to teach you about overcoming challenges. Clearly this was a challenge that you weren’t prepared for, so this experience will prepare you for a similar challenge in the future.
Dad, that sounds like that Positive Polly stuff again!
Let me ask you this, if I gave you a choice of feeling angry or curious right now, which would you choose?
Curious, for sure. Being angry doesn’t feel very good.
Positive Polly or not, a lens of curiosity is much more effective. There are always going to be circumstances that will push your buttons or be triggers for you. I just want you to realize that you have the power to choose whether or not this will happen. You control the button.