I knew of a child who was not eager to try anything much. His response to most questions, even the question of “What would you like to do?” was “I don’t know.” He got into the habit of making so little effort that he shortened his response even further to “IDK.” This child was not interested in trying or even thinking about trying! So I suggested his COACH mentor respond next time with “IDKY.”
This prompted a tiny bit of curiosity from the child. What did “IDKY” mean? The mentor explained “I don’t know yet! It’s okay to not know yet but how about we explore and find out some more, we might find that you enjoy this!” The addition of the little word “yet” opened up possibilities.
Adding “yet” to the end of a complaint can completely change the perspective.
For example, when your child says, “I can’t do this” – usually with a really whiny tone – add the little word “yet”, and get them to repeat the sentence. “I can’t do this yet” creates a possibility instead of the finite feeling of them never being able to achieve this.
You can’t do it yet is expected when you’re learning, so let’s see what we can do to help you get there. What steps can we start with? When can we practise this? Where can you go for help? Relate this to a favourite sports person or a leader in their field, and remind your child that it took time for these people to get to their position of excellence, they haven’t always been able to do this. It encourages effort and a longer term view when kids get overwhelmed by the situation in front of them and need some help to problem solve. Remember we practice to improve, not to be perfect!
So next time the “I can’t” statements come your way, throw in the little word “yet” and look for a change in mindset. And if you can’t master a new skill yet, don’t give up, get help, and tell your kids about your struggle. They need to hear that at times you feel like giving up but also to hear of your efforts to keep going and persevering.
Kids COACH coordinator of Community Mentoring, Crossway Lifecare
Colleen has over 20 years’ experience working with children and a background in nursing and pastoral care. She is married with three adult children and three grandsons who are a source of great love, fun and lots of games!