My essays about healthy relationships with God, others, & yourself.

This is what happens when kids try to fix their own problems.

I was sitting in my Lazy Boy getting caught up on some World Magazine issues that I had missed reading.  My wife, Cindy, was out for the evening.  Lexi, our 10-year-old was suddenly in crisis.  She had just gotten some hot chocolate, when somehow, she knocked it over in our living room and it went all over the carpet, the sofa, the miniblinds, the wall, etc.  What a mess!

It was an accident, so I couldn’t get too upset–after all, I’ve caused worse accidents!  But Lexi was clearly upset, bawling and calling herself “stupid.”

I remained in my chair, waiting until she cooled down,  Then I called her over to come to sit in my lap.  I asked her how she felt about the whole hot chocolate incident.

“I feel like an idiot,” she whimpered sadly.  “I’m so clumsy.”

“That did make quite a mess,” I said, pointing out the various areas that now were spotted with brown.  “And I’m sure Mom won’t go for the new look.”  So I said, “Let me ask you this,  would you feel like less of an idiot if I cleaned up your mess or if you did?”

“I’d feel like more of an idiot if you had to clean up my mess.”

“Of course, you would.   People feel even worse when they cause extra work for others, don’t they?  That makes a lot of sense. ”

“Yea, but Dad, this mess is way too messy.  I could never clean it up.”  This thought started her bawling again.

Squeezing her tight, I said, “What if I believed you could clean it up all by yourself!  We have a really cool carpet shampooer and I’m sure you’re old enough to use it.  How about if I teach you how to do it?   Shall we give it a try?”

“I guess so.”

So I brought the machine upstairs and showed her, step by step, how to fill the shampoo tank in the sink and empty the dirty one into the toilet; how to spray, scrub, and vacuum the sofa and carpet.  And then, for the next hour and a half, while I resumed my World Magazine reading, Lexi went to work on the chocolate stains one at a time–all by herself.   She did the carpet and then the sofa, and she kept going–she even cleaned under all the cushions and then did the other sofa that wasn’t even baptized by cocoa.  Lexi cleaned things we’ve never cleaned before.  Her despair had turned to joy–she was obviously loving it!

I tell you all this because one of our key parenting principles is that kids must eventually learn to solve their own problems.  Too often we parents make their problems ours.  Either we rescue them (helicopter parents) or we belittle them (drill sergeants).   By giving them the responsibility to fix their own problems we honor them and treat them as contributors, rather than simply dependents.  At such times we should not rescue but empower.

And they may learn some new life skills as well.  In fact, just before bedtime, I caught her on the computer printing something out.  This is what it said.

Lexi's Poster


Lexi Forstrom is going too start a carpet cleaning business starting Nov 9-Dec 15.  Probably 10-20 dollars per appointment.

She will bring:

Her own carpet cleaner   /   Her own supplies

You will need to provide:

A bathroom with a toilet  /   An adult there

Your time  /   Something to clean.

She will clean:

Carpeted Couches  /   Carpet

Carpeted chairs. /   Etc. If you tell her first.

For more information call 393-0415.

In many homes, a cup of spilled hot chocolate would result in frustration, anger, yelling, tempers, and words.  In our “fix your own mess” home that spilled cup might result in a promising career!

1 Comment

  1. Gina

    I would highly recommend Lexi to do your carpets! She did our family room for us and what an excellent job she did – and our carpet looks awesome! She was dilligent and thorough in her work – and her “supervisor” (DAD) kept her on task :>) Thanks, Lexi!

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