I have been focusing a lot lately on our family axioms – values and virtues that we overtly speak over our children describing the kind of people we are (ahem, suppose to be.) Call it a motto, maxim, adage, rallying cry….
Yesterday I had the opportunity to use my new favorite: Change it.
We had a German family over to play for the afternoon, a family I have been wanting to connect with for a while. All the children were having a grand time outside for a couple of hours. But as soon as we came inside for cake and milk, my younger two children began to bicker and fuss at each other for every little thing. “You know how to work it out”, I reminded. Their clashing continued. Finally after about 6 minutes, I pulled each of them aside for these two simple words. CHANGE IT.
Why does “change it” work?
1. This quick two-word command is powerful. The word change is powerful. It is like a pinch in the arm or a glass of water in the face. It snaps them out of their funk, and offers a real solution.
2. It reminds them that they are in control of their own actions and emotions. Sometimes children get stuck in a feedback loop of powerlessness. “Change it” puts the responsibility back in their hands and kicks blame to the curb.
3. The third reason this works, is because we talk about it ahead of time. I help the children prepare for an event, and plan their intended actions accordingly. I am a huge fan of James Lehman and The Total Transformation program. One thing he talks about is a concept called cuing.
CUEING: It can be valuable if the parent and child have a cue -or signal they can give in times of high stress or intense frustration that signifies one party needs to take a break. A cue can also be used as a signal to stop some troubling behavior from escalating.
I have a cue meeting with my kids before nearly every social activity. Cue meeting in the car before going into the grocery. Cue meeting before heading to the swimming pool, the movie, a dinner out, a birthday party – whatever social situation we may be in. It’s not a lecture. Cue meeting simply sets up the event and prepares the children for the choices they will make. “Change it” has become a staple for us in the cue meeting. The message is clear. If I say, “change it”, that means that something that you are doing is causing friction and negativity. Do not try to explain, do not try to defend. Just change it. Then we can talk about who did what, and “this about her” and “he started it” blah blah blah… later. Because I spoke to my children ahead of time, they were able to make an adjustment upon hearing the cue, “change it”.