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The Problem-o-meter

What is a Problem-o-meter?

The Problem-o-meter is a problem measuring tool I made up to help me deal with a melt down!
The other day, at bedtime my 7-year-old Lydia was really distressed, close to tears...
Lydia: the tooth paste is really annoying (in the grumpiest tone you can imagine)
Me: oh is it darling why?
Lydia: because when I put water on it the toothpaste goes all over the sides of the tooth brush!
Me: oh dear (talk about first world problems!)
Of course, you and I know it’s a Friday night, she is tired and everything is super annoying. However, I can’t help noticing a pattern with my girls lately - every tiny problem is a catastrophe.  Don’t even get me started on the teenager losing her favorite pair of jeans in the washing…. definitely a 999 situation.
Back to the tooth paste atrocity, I took a deep breath and thought ‘how can I explain perspective to her?’
That’s when parental inspiration struck and I created the Problem-o-meter!
We have this 2m high Ikea cupboard in the bathroom, I pointed to the top and said:
Me: Look at this, this is the biggest problem a child can have
Lydia: (with wide eyed curiosity) What is it?
Me: This problem up here is a child who has no mummy or daddy and has nowhere to go because his house was blown up in a war.
- There was a moment of silence. -
I know I can be a little mean, but it’s reality.  Then I pointed at half way down the cupboard and said: ‘Well here is a child that their daddy died when they were little, like me, and only had one parent looking after them.’
She had a really engaged face.
So I said: ‘Where do you think having a booboo on your knee is on this Problem-o-meter?’ She points at 30cm from the bottom of the cupboard which meant she was getting it.
Then I asked the million-dollar question: ‘So where do you think the tooth paste problem is at the Problem-o-meter level?’ She put her finger right at the bottom touching the floor and giggled!
I loved that moment, I felt I showed her that these are not really problems worth crying about. Not sure how long this will last but kids need something physical to relate to and this really worked!

Putting things into perspective


I do find it difficult to deal with problems that are not problems, especially now they are no longer toddlers and they understand a bit more about the world, although my husband tells me I’m a little harsh sometimes. Maybe showing 10-year-old Layla a photo of a starving child in Africa wasn’t a great idea but she kept saying she was starving so I said: ‘right YOU ARE NOT STARVING because I will show you what starving is….’ and she never used that word again!  We laugh about it now she’s 15 and she tells me I was mean, but she also tells me that it opened her eyes a little and she shared it with her friends at school (no wonder those school mums never spoke to me!!).
I think we protect our kids a little too much from the realities of life, forgetting that only a small percentage of the world live like us. My policy is to tell them about the real world out there, they deserve to know. It will help them empathize and look at their problems with a sense of perspective.
Now I just need to figure out how I’m going to use the Problem-o-meter when we’re in the car and I don’t have my IKEA cupboard!

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