The most important thing is not what you did, but what you did after you did what you did!
Picture this: I am driving and my three wonderful children are in the backseat, fighting: ‘Mom! He pulled my hair!’ ‘Mom—she called me dumb!’ ‘I want MILK!!’
I’ve got a master’s in Clinical Psychology, over 10 years of experience as a specialist in child therapy, so obviously, I had this handled. ‘SHUT UP!’ I yelled in my loudest voice.
Ok--so not handled. But you’ve been there, too, haven’t you? What do you do when you’ve broken all the rules and ‘scarred’ your children forever?
I’m not sure what you would do, but I’m a play therapist. So I played a game. When we got home, I sat down at the table with the 3 babies that light up my life and I played a very special game: The I Wish I Had Game. ‘Babies, let’s play The I wish I had game.’ ‘Sure, Mom.’ Three pairs of large eyes are looking at me in trepidation.
‘I yelled in the car and used bad words. I hurt your feelings and scared you all. I wish I had said, quietly, ‘If you choose to fight in the backseat, you choose to not watch TV when we get home. If you choose to talk quietly in the backseat, you choose to watch TV when we get home. Which do you choose?’ How does that sound?’ Hugs all around, children bounce off and I feel a lot better.
There is some great research that says story telling helps engage all parts of our minds. Role playing is one way therapists tap into this powerful medium. This game does some very powerful things:
- Models accepting responsibility for doing wrong. Now, when my children do something bad, they know I expect them to admit to me what they did wrong.
- Describes how what I did hurt them. I acknowledged their feelings.
- Re-experiences what I wish I had done. I showed them that even when they mess up, they can fix the relationship.
- Teaches them that our relationship is more important than me being right.
I’d love to hear about how you seek forgiveness when you mess up. Who knows, you may have the magic bullet that keeps me from messing up the next time I’m in the car with fighting siblings!