These three words are a great tool to use if you have a four year old or older.

What’s the plan?

When you use these three words, you are opening up a dialogue with your child and moving towards better understanding of their behavior.   This also helps with teaching empathy as well as problem solving skills.  So think of this tip as a winner!!

Often we are thinking or expecting the worst with our children.  We see them pick up a rock and our first thought is that they are going to throw it at a person or an animal or they will break something with it.

We might not be wrong.  They might have that idea in their head. BUT they might be thinking that they are going to build a rock tower with it.  Or they might be bringing it to a bug to build them a home.  We don’t know.

So when they pick up a rock, instead of saying, “PUT that rock DOWN!” we say, “What’s your plan?”

If it were indeed nefarious, they might smile at your and then slowly put the rock down on the ground without needing any more discussion, but if they had another plan in mind, then they might say, “gonna build house” and you can marvel at your young architect.

This works for anything. 

If you child starts to grab something that maybe they shouldn’t be grabbing, “What’s your plan?”  If your child picks up a gigantic stick, “What’s your plan?”

This teaches empathy, because you are putting yourself in your kids shoes which is a great model for them to then be able to be empathetic.  You are wondering what they are wondering.  Can this branch touch the sky?  Will it be long enough to go across the river?  

This also teaches problem solving because nine times out of ten, their plan was to try to fix things (usually in the worst way possible, but they don’t know that yet) and you can be there to facilitate the problem solving.

You can see into their creativity and gain insight into their thoughts.  What we assumed was bad behavior is actually brilliant thinking!  We become closer to our children and they don’t get into trouble and everyone is much happier. 

Now, this doesn’t mean that our children always have a plan in mind that is helpful, problem solving or creative, it honestly could be that their plan was to harm something or to make things worse but we don’t know until we ask.  And once we find out their intent, we can move forward with so much more knowledge than we had before. 

So the next time your child goes into the kitchen and grabs a dangerous tool, or picks up something they shouldn’t have, or starts doing something suspicious looking, ask

“What’s your plan?”