My 15-year-old daughter and I took a weekend trip to California a few weeks ago. We had a wonderful weekend of eating great food, walking on the beach and bonding over chick flicks. When it came time to decide what to do, her answer was almost always, “I don’t know.” I must have heard that phrase 100 times.
Now there is nothing wrong with not knowing an answer to a question. It can show humility and it can indicate a desire to learn. However, it can also be a way to defer decision making or to defer thinking at all.
When I asked, where do you want to eat: “I don’t know.”
What should we do today: “I don’t know.”
What movie should we watch: “I don’t know.”
What did you think about (any topic): “I don’t know.”
The phrase “I don’t know” was driving me crazy.
I have a friend who told me her teen even uses “I don’t know” when asked if he had eaten. ?!@#!?
My daughter and I discussed her fondness for this phrase and that I thought this response was an evasion. By saying “I don’t know” she was telling me that she had no opinion and that she wasn’t going to ponder the question. When asked why she used the phrase so often, her response was a quick, “I don’t know.” Groan.
The day after we came home, I posted the following in our kitchen.
Instead of saying “I Don’t Know” Choose One of the Following:
- Let me think about it.
- That’s a good question!
- Hmmm . . .
- Decisions are great!
- Let me find out.
- I have that same question.
- My best guess is . . .
- I choose . . .
- I would prefer . . .
- I don’t know . . . YET!
I kept thinking about the movie, “The Runaway Bride” when Richard Gere tells Julia Roberts that she doesn’t even know how she likes her eggs. Watch the clip, it’s great. Julia’s character doesn’t know who she is and what she likes. I told my daughter about this scene and when I hear, “I don’t know” I tell her she needs to know. She needs to find out how she likes those eggs.
So I know today’s list was supposed to be about 10 things better than being in love. But I think we had better find out who we are before we fall in love. So if you have a teenager who loves “I don’t know” as much as my children do, show them the list. Maybe it will work for you, too.