Responding to Kids’ Tough Questions

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As my children grow older, I notice that I am increasingly at a loss for words. Questions like “How did that baby get in your belly?” and “Why don’t you have a nose ring?” 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 that’s OK. Put all these desires together, and it can be hard to answer the tough questions – especially on a moment’s notice.

So, how to respond in these moments without sounding preachy or like a total moron?  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 don’t always need to praise our children for their work (i.e., “That is the most beautiful spider/pumpkin/race car I have ever seen.”) 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: “Mom, did you ever use drugs when you were younger?” Instead of panicking, then launching into an explanation as to why you did or didn’t, and how that relates to your children – try “Why do you ask?” 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).

That’s something! I am told I say this a lot.  I think I say it when I want to say something negative or punishing, but know that might not be in my, or the recipient’s, best interest. Here’s a – totally random of course – example. Young child writes “I LOVE YOU MOM” on their dining room chair – in permanent marker.

Work it out.  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 kids’ 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?

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