The day came this August to send my oldest off to school for the first time. She didn’t want me to take her to school, walk her to class, or come eat lunch with her. Was she all grown up? Was my job over?
Not exactly. My daughter is the queen of lost items. Even if it is attached to her, it falls away into the land of the lost. And, the start of school has been no exception. She has lost coats, mittens, and hair bows mainly.
For the first few months, I found myself getting frustrated with her absent mindedness and lost items. I would make many trips to the school to sort through bins of lost clothes. It suddenly became my mission, my problem to solve. Then, one day it dawned on me. Her lost items didn’t have to become my problem.
My daughter still needed me, but not in the way I had envisioned. She needs me to let her grow up! Armed with the wisdom that kids grow up when we let them, I set off to find a way to free myself from the frustration and fretting about her lost items.
5 steps to letting kids own their problems
Identify who owns the problem
What choices do I have? I can keep going up to the school to find her missing items. I can keep reminded her to track them down and keep them close. But will any of these things help her learn to keep track of her own things? Nope.
Or, I can chose to leave the problem alone. When I leave it on her lap, the problem of losing items doesn’t get worse. The hard truth is there is nothing I can do that will prevent it from happening. If it doesn’t get worse and you cannot prevent it, then it’s not a problem you own.
Define your position
It becomes my problem when I think I don’t have this choice. If I worry that I will have to buy her a new coat each time she loses it, then I will be one frustrated and overspent momma. I don’t want to buy her another coat this year.
Give realistic choices
If I’m not going to replace her lost items, what choices does my daughter have to solve the missing items? I can think of three choices she has: 1) find it, 2) buy a new one, or 3) go without it. Lucky for me, she is a good saver, so she could replace most of her lost items, although she never chooses to do so!
Let kids experience consequences
She usually chooses to find the missing items or go without them. Here’s the hard part. Winter’s approaching, and letting her experience natural consequences will soon be approaching. She tells me she’s not that cold. And, then she manages to find most of what she’s lost, at least the necessities.
Squash prodding, nagging, and reminding
Fretting, fuming, and reminding are all signs that you haven’t fully let your loved one own their problem. But, once I decide to not buy replacement items (until she outgrows her size), I must find a way to not even poke at the problem. If reminding is poking, then I need to cut this out to.
Each moment and interaction invites choices.
You know I’m all about choices. I promote them and live them, but even I lose them! Once I realized that I had a choice, it was such a relief.
What problem would you like to liberate yourself from? Who does the problem belong to?
Photo Credit: D Sharon Pruitt