One of my favorite parenting tools is role playing. Role playing is my way of helping my children, but yet not robbing them of an opportunity to grow and gain confidence.
I have used this strategy a lot over the last few months, particularly with Elle. I find that role playing calms her, reassures her, and teaches her at the same time.
Here are a few different scenarios where I used role playing to help Elle:
Elle needed to call her great grandma and ask her some questions about her heritage for a school assignment. She was too overwhelmed at first so we role played the phone call. I pretended to be grandma and she called me. I let her ask the questions and I gave her a variety of responses.
Another time Elle needed to call her adult leader in church and tell her she would not be doing her part in our church’s children’s program. (See this post.) This was going to be an emotional phone call so we did a few run throughs before she made the call.
I required Elle to do some research before she can get her ears pierced (upcoming post). She called three jewelry stores to find out information about getting her ears pierced. We role played different phone conversations here as well. Sometimes I was a helpful clerk and sometimes I was a clueless teenager working the phone. And I took a turn playing Elle so she could see what questions she might need to ask.
And our latest and probably the funnest role play was last night. I came into to snuggle with Elle before bed and she had an agenda for our nightly discussion. She wanted to talk about dating boys because she had read a section in our manners book about accepting and declining dates politely. First I reminded her that she wasn’t going to be dating until she was 16, but that I would gladly help her prepare early if she wanted. We read the section in the manners book together and then role played what she would say when she is asked out on dates and how she could accept and turn down dates politely. Sometimes I was the polite boy and sometimes I was a loser. One time I had Elle role play a rude boy and I modeled for her how to set the boys straight from the beginning. Curfew, appropriate dress, expectations and activities all came up in our role play. We laughed together and I also think Elle learned a few things.
Role playing has worked for us particularly on unfamiliar phone conversations, but you could do it for any real life scenario that your children might need to have with a friend, a teacher, a bully, a mean girl, a neighbor, etc. I find it helpful to play both sides so our children can see what might be said and what they could say back. And I think it is helpful to let the children play both sides as well. Often their words gives us a window into some of their fears. Plus role playing is a great chance to add humor to a nervous situation.
Good luck with role playing. I hopes it works for you too.