My four-year-old daughter and I were walking through a local mall recently when she spotted a Starbucks.

“Ohh, a Starbucks! Can I get a cake pop?” Unfortunately, she has acquired an internal GSP for locating Starbucks, thanks to my latté addiction.

“Let me think about it,” I said, buying myself some time. To my surprise, she wasn’t disappointed by being put on hold.

“Oh, I love ‘let me think about its’!” she said.

Taking time to think about my answer worked in her favour often enough, she explained to me, so she was happy to wait. And she was right: sometimes she’d get the answer she wanted and sometimes she wouldn’t.

The phrase “let me think about it” has become a go-to parenting move for me. Whether I’m using it with my four-year-old daughter or 19-year-old son, it’s a winner—not that my son needs my permission for many things anymore, now that he’s an adult. Raising kids of all ages comes with constant decision making. I found that during my son’s teen years, I had to start making decisions about more complex situations such as him asking to go to a party or to borrow the car or to go downtown with his friends at night. Those were all scenarios that I needed time to think about. I needed to weigh the pros and cons of saying yes or no. I needed to assess each situation so that I knew what I wanted to talk to him about in terms of his safety and my expectations. I didn’t want to be pressured into making a quick decision.

“Let me think about it” takes the pressure off and gives me the time to process my thoughts. It comes in handy with little ones, too. Some examples of daily questions from my daughter include (but are not limited to): Can I have dessert? Can we go to the park? Can I watch TV? Can you buy me this toy? These are not the same kind of requests as those of a teen, they do not carry the same level of potential risk or consequences, but they still work with “let me think about it.” Saying those words gives me time to evaluate whether or not she’s already had a sweet treat today or how much screen time she has had without giving her a “No” straight away. And once I’ve thought about it, I’m able to give her an answer and an explanation that help her understand my decisions. Sometimes she does just get a “No” and I have to help her learn how to deal with not getting everything she wants and her feelings of disappointment.

This phrase doesn’t work with every kid. My five-year-old nephew. He does not like it when my sister answers him with “Let me think about it.” It is too vague for him; he is a very black and white thinker and wants to know either way. He wants the yes or no response, he doesn’t want to be wondering what the answer will be. As parents, we have to figure out what works best for us and our kids.

“Let me think about it” has become one of my favourite responses. It lets me take the time that I need to think when I’m faced with a decision. And it lets my kids know that I hear their requests—however big or small. It also provides teachable moments for my daughter to practice patience.

Being a parent isn’t always easy, we are constantly faced with challenging decisions about our kids and how we want to raise them. Nothing will test us more than having to make decisions about their well-being and trying to teach the kind of values we want them to learn as they move through the world. So why not grant ourselves a few extra minutes to really consider how we want to respond?

Oh, and by the way, she did end up getting her cake pop…

Lisa has been working as a Youth & Family Counsellor for the past 12 years in Victoria. She is a proud mama to a preschooler and a teen and has a weakness for chai lattés.