Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Big Fan of the "Do-Over"

As I sit here with sore muscles from running my second half-marathon in just six days’ time, I contemplate why I would do such a thing to myself. Then I realize that I wanted a “Do-Over.” My first effort last week was far short of my personal goal, so I needed a chance to redeem myself! Something I’ve become quite facile with in my parenting journey!

How many times do we as parents go down that slippery slope of disrespect with our children out of frustration, impatience or failure to take into account their perspective? There’s always an excuse and frankly we are imperfectly human parents. But I’ve got to say that when I catch myself drifting to the dark side, I am a huge proponent of the “Do-Over” or “Rewind”. At times we really wish we had that magic short-term memory eraser powder that Billy Crystal’s character used so handily in the blockbuster smash hit, “The Tooth Fairy.” But we can’t. So the next best thing (besides prevention itself) is to back-up and start over.

Just a few days ago, I was cringing inside watching my exuberant 7-year-old licking microwaved melted marshmallow from a paper plate (her latest dessert invention). As all parents know, anything THAT sticky and gooey is more attracted to long hair than a toddler is to mud puddles.

“Hey honey, your hair is wearing your dessert, “I observed.

“It’s okay, I can take a bath tonight!” she retorted satisfactorily.

“You had a bath last night and besides it’s only two in the afternoon. We may have a nest with a family of robins living in there by that time,” I predicted. Of course, my attention is diverted by a profound question my son asks me, “Mom, why are clowns scary to some people but funny to others?”

A few minutes later my daughter emerges from the bathroom smiling from ear to ear with sopping wet hair, “Look mom! I washed my hair in the sink!” I hate that in that moment I forgot everything I know about acknowledging feelings and bellowed, “Look at the mess in the bathroom! There is water all over the floor and the countertop and the towel loop has been yanked from the wall AGAIN!” Well of course her joyful exuberance turned to hurt and pain and she began to wail with huge tears plummeting down her soft, rosy cheeks.

That’s when I called it! “Wait, REWIND! Come back out of the bathroom and tell me again! Let me have a do-over!” My mind is reeling with the fact that I have taught a class on acknowledging your child’s feelings for 7 years and here I am doing laps in ‘de-Nile.’

I make a high, whirling sound like that of a cassette or VHS tape rewinding, knowing very well the only tape my kids are familiar with is the scotch kind that disappears into that black hole common within most munchkin households, you know the one where all of the pens, sock mates and band-aids end up (I digress). My daughter is still whimpering a little, but attempts to feebly re-enact her grand entrance. This time I say, “Wow what a creative idea! You knew you weren’t going to have a bath tonight, so you found a way right here and now to get all of that sticky marshmallow out of your hair! Here’s a towel to wipe up that excess water in the bathroom! Oh, I see the towel loop fell off the wall again. Put it here so daddy can fix it and try to remember to take the towel off the loop gently rather than tugging on it. You are stronger than you think!” I concluded, feeling as though the cameras were rolling in my new reality TV show, “Handling Almost Anything Well That Your Children Do To Surprise You Daily!”

“Whew! That was an improvement,” I thought as my daughter gave me a big tight hug around the waist and proudly said, “I cleaned up all of the water myself!” What a different outcome than from my previous response. My daughter should be feeling proud, innovative and autonomous not inept, incapable or guilty. We have so many opportunities to improve the outcome of just such an exchange. Try it next time and watch what happens! The choice is yours to “Rewind and Respond” to forge a connection while building a healthy self-image in your child or to, in our usually adult way, react needlessly and do just the opposite of some of our goals as parents.

Evie Estes, PCI Certified Parent Coach®, mom of three


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