Claire McGarry is a mom of three young children, and the founder of MOSAIC of Faith: a ministry through which she offers evening retreats and monthly faith sharing groups for moms, a children’s service project group, and a weekly mommy-and-me program. She posts weekly at “Shifting My Perspective,” where she writes about how Scripture always challenges her to grow and learn from the issues in her motherhood, and life in general, so she can see the gifts in their hands. You can visit her blog at www.shiftingmyperspective.com. Please welcome Claire!
Rehearsing The Right Response
All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17
My nine year old son Mason had his first speaking role ever in our church’s Christmas pageant this year. He played Joseph, and had quite a few lines. Having done theatre in college, I know that nervousness can cause your mind to go blank while performing. I explained to Mason that he needed to know his lines forwards and backwards, so no matter how nervous he got, he’d remember what to say and when.
It occurred to me that I parent my kids the same way I coached Mason for the pageant: making them rehearse the right response to each situation over and over again. Every time any one of them loses their cool, breaks a rule, or is unkind, I have them take some time away to calm down. Then we have a little chat.
First, I ask them to tell me (and not vice versa) what they did wrong. Kids are smart. They know when they’ve misbehaved. My kids don’t need me to point out the error of their ways. Instead, having them put their mistakes into words forces them to take ownership of their actions.
Second, I have them tell me what an appropriate response would have been. Occasionally I do have to help them brainstorm the different options. But most times they know what the right responses are, sometimes they just choose not to make them. Having them verbalize the different options they could have taken not only reminds them that there are numerous ways to solve any given problem, it also gives them an opportunity to redeem themselves. Not only do they get to rewrite the script of what just happened, they get to see how the new ending plays out so much better than the first.
Third, not only do they have to apologize to me, but they have to apologize to whomever they hurt in the process. It is important they own their mistakes. However, apologizing is how they make things right.
Lastly, I have them rehearse the right response. I literally have my kids role-play the scenario leading up to the problem, but then act out the right response instead. They say “practice makes perfect.” It is this process that imprints the right choice on their brains so that, hopefully the next time, when their emotions are running high, they remember what they rehearsed and follow through with a good choice. If I skip this part of the process, my kids are inclined to remember the punishment, not the problem solving and feeling of empowerment that I want them to remember.
Fortunately Mason was well rehearsed and delivered every one of his lines perfectly. And with each passing year that my kids rehearse the right response, there is less and less fighting in my household, and more overall good behavior. They are so proud of their own practice and progress, and without a doubt, so am I!
How do you teach your child(ren) how to respond to life’s mishaps?