As my children grow older, I notice that I am increasingly at a loss for words. Questions like â€œHow did that baby get in your belly?â€ and â€œWhy donâ€™t you have a nose ring?â€ have me stymied. I want to be honest with my kids, but age appropriate too. In addition, I want them to learn tolerance and that different people believe and like different things and thatâ€™s OK. Put all these desires together, and it can be hard to answer the tough questions – especially on a momentâ€™s notice.
So, how to respond in these moments without sounding preachy or like a total moron?Â Here are some of my favorite parental comebacks. I have memorized these statements, and find them quite useful when no other words seem to suffice:
Wow, you worked really hard on that. This statement can be used when responding to an art project, a report on vampires, or a homemade birthday card gone awry. We donâ€™t always need to praise our children for their work (i.e., â€œThat is the most beautiful spider/pumpkin/race car I have ever seen.â€) but it is important to acknowledge their effort – even when the outcome is questionable.
Why do you ask? This is a great comeback to all manner of questions related to sex, drugs, drinking, and other tough subjects. For example: â€œMom, did you ever use drugs when you were younger?â€ Instead of panicking, then launching into an explanation as to why you did or didnâ€™t, and how that relates to your children – try â€œWhy do you ask?â€ instead. Not only will it buy you some time, it will also get to the heart of the issue (i.e., someone offered your child drugs, they saw a movie about drugs at school, etc).
Thatâ€™s something! I am told I say this a lot.Â I think I say it when I want to say something negative or punishing, but know that might not be in my, or the recipientâ€™s, best interest. Hereâ€™s a – totally random of course – example. Young child writes â€œI LOVE YOU MOMâ€ on their dining room chair – in permanent marker.
Work it out.Â I say this one a lot, too. To my own kids, to neighborhood kids, to school friends. I find that it is generally not helpful to interfere in kidsâ€™ arguments. Not only is it good for them to learn to work things out on their own, they also have shorter memories and fewer hurt feelings than grown ups. Something that a 6 year old gets over in 2 minutes, might take me 2 years.
Do you have any favorite comebacks to the kids in your life?