Thursday, June 30, 2011

Time Well Spent

I love my kids. My kids love me. My kids also make a lot of mistakes, but the truth is that the majority of the time they truly do not purposefully screw up. I was reminded of this the other day when I was disciplining #1. It went something like this:

Me: "Time to take your bath!"
#1 (said in an insulting and hateful tone): "The movie isn't over. I want to wait!!"
Me: "It is not okay to talk to me like that. Do you understand?"

And there it was. My answer was in that blank look on his face. He didn't get it. He thought he was in trouble for the content of what he said. He was completely unaware that how he said it mattered. I could toss out there, "It's not what you said, but how you said it." That didn't really illustrate my expectations either, so I went to my parenting bag and pulled out role play. 

Me: "OK, buddy. Here is the deal. What you said is true. It is not wrong to want to finish your movie. How you said it is disrespectful. Let me show you. I am going to say, 'I would like to finish the movie first please,' in a sweet voice. Now, I will say it in a disrespectful voice.  Did I say the same thing? Yes.  Did the way I said it make a difference to you?" 

#1: "Yes."

We went through a few more scenarios of saying something in a kind way and then saying something in a disrespectful way.  We said, "I want a cookie... Please take me to the park...", and a few others.  By the time we were through I was pretty sure that he had a grasp on the concept that tone matters and that a statement may be true, but it also needs to be communicated respectfully.  We ended our role play by me saying, "Time to take a bath," and him responding in a respectful manner.

Role play is not a quick method of behavior modification but I am addicted to its effectiveness.  I am so grateful to my favorite Child Life Specialist, KMcP, for encouraging me to put the time into this parenting strategy.  I know I have mentioned it before and I promise I will be mentioning it again.  Get.  On.  Board. 

The next day at the pool a similar situation came up.  I told #1 that it was time to go.  He first responded in the disrespectful manner.  "Mmmmooommm!  I am not done getting my dive rings!"  I went to the edge of the pool and motioned for him to come close.

I said, "What you said is true.  How you said it was disrespectful.  Please say it again."

"Mom.  I still have dive sticks in the water.  I need to get them please."

I thanked him for speaking in a respectful manner and told him that it was fine for him to collect his dive sticks.

I am not sure how long it will be before #1's innate response is respect but I do know that we are moving in the right direction.  The second offense did not take near as much redirection because I had beat that dead horse adequately the first time. ;) I am pretty sure that he would have rather left the dive sticks at the pool than have to go through all of those scenarios again.  And if I am being totally honest he is not a disrespectful kid.  It makes perfect sense that he would want to change that behavior once I brought it to his attention.

I assumed the best in him and this freed him up to be his best for me.  I love that.  I love him.  And I love that my time and effort are preparing him to be his best beyond me. 

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