If You Were in Charge…

If you were in charge...

Today’s Monday Magic Phrase has the ability to completely overturn a power dynamic going south.

When a child is frustrated, angry, feels mistreated, hates the plan, declares life isn’t fair, flip the script. Instead of doubling down on rationally explaining or proving your case, turn the tables.

If you were in charge…

  • how would we solve this?
  • what would you want your sister to do now to fix it?
  • how would we spend the day?
  • what would we do to study —math, grammar, writing, phonics?
  • how much computer time would be ideal for you?
  • what would we have for lunch?
  • when would you practice piano?

By framing the question as “If you were in charge,” you are upping their sense of responsibility when they express an idea (different than when you ask “What do you want?). These do not often yield the same result.

You may get a child who suggests an outrageous idea like “We would play games all day every day for the rest of our lives.” Or “We would eat all the sugar we want!” Or “I would never go to the dentist.” These are wishes that reveal emotions. They describe the current level of deprivation or fear or anxiety the child feels.

Empathize and then say: “Wow! That would be awesome if we could [fill in the blank]. But if you were *in charge*, what would we do? Take a little time to think about it. I’m really interested. I need a helper to solve this problem.”

By agreeing with the outrageous declaration as a wish, your child begins to feel heard. Return to the child having good ideas if given time to think of them.

You can also go to a white board and say: “Good start! Let’s get all the ideas on the board.”

Play with it. You may be surprised—sometimes a child offers the most lovely perfectly reasonable solution, but we never thought to ask. Like, “If I were in charge, I’d do math after lunch. I hate doing it in the morning.”


This post is originally from Instagram and @juliebravewriter is my account there so come follow along for more conversations like this one!


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