What do you do when your child comes home from school and tells you a classmate was being mean to him/her in the playground or was bothering your child during lunch? How do you prevent your child from telling their grandparent that “The meatloaf is yucky, I don’t like it and want something else for dinner”??? Or how about when a neighbor brings over a gift, your child opens it, looks disappointed and puts the gift on the table and just walks away? Concerned? Horrified???
Well, my wife and I find role-playing with our 5.5 year old daughter to be a fun and educational way to drive home points on how to act/react in those types of situations. First we talk about the situation, explain what’s proper and how participants may feel. Then we take turns with role-play so she can practice and experience dealing with the situation in a safe environment!
Here’s example of what we have done:
Reaction to opening gifts – First we explain to our daughter that all gifts should be appreciated and that the giver took time to select it for the receiver. So, no matter what comes out of the gift wrap or gift bag, always say thank you and something nice about it. We then play the role play game and take turns gifting random things in the house. This discussion was at the dining room, so we took things like a napkin holder, bottle of sauce, box of tissue, etc. ‘Nice” comments that made it fun and educational were “Thank you, I love sauce on my food.”, “Thanks, I always need tissue.”, etc. Sounds pretty weird, eh. But believe me, it was a neat, fun, safe and educational exercise!
Reaction to food being offered – First you need to know that my mom takes so much pride in her cooking, showing her love through her food, so no one wants to tell her they don’t like a dish she made. Young children need to learn this discretion and therefore we needed to prep our 5.5 year old for a week-long visit at grandma’s house. We first discussed with our daughter that if you don’t have anything nice to say, then you don’t say anything at all. So our bottom line is ‘if you don’t like a dish and are being offered more, just say no thank you, but I’d like some more X please.’ So again, role play with “Have some more bitter melon, it’s healthy for you” and our daughter replied “No thank you, but I would like more green beans please.”
Reaction when a kid is being mean – This situation, unfortunately, has hit home a few times. To be honest, our, like most parents, initial reaction was ‘tell your teacher that X is being mean to you.’ But them we knew that is NOT the right thing to teach our kids. So we explained to our daughter that it could be best for her to try to stop the situation herself and if the , lets say, bully doesn’t stop, then it is appropriate to get the teacher/parent/adult involved. Of course, if there is immediate danger or pain, an adult should be brought in right away. For example, one of the issues was when a classmate kept swinging her feet at the lunch table and was kicking my daughter. We role played this and I played the “leg swinger” to see how Julia would handle the situation, then she played the leg swinger and I played the “victim” and expressed how I would handle the situation before needing to bring in the teacher. Another time, a fellow student was making fun of students of color and ethnicity, we discussed how to address this situation and took turns role-playing as well. One bottom-line, initial response we expressed to her is to tell the person that ‘You are not being nice. You should not talk to me like that’ and walk away. Sometimes mean/bully kids just want attention, so don’t give it to them by sitting/standing there and accepting their actions/words. If they persist to bother and harass you, then you should inform the teacher.
Surely you can think about situations where role-playing with your child(ren) will help build their confidence, self-esteem, and overall comfort level in dealing with situations. Trust me, this is a fun and educational way for kids to learn and practice handling these situations!
What tips or stories do you have to share? Please leave a comment and share it with us! Thanks!