Elle had a speaking part in our church’s Children’s Program last weekend. But the night before the program she refused to do it. I thought she just might be tired so I had her sleep on it, but when she woke up Sunday morning, she still refused to do the part she was asked to do. (And I am talking in bed, bawling, with the covers over her head, screaming, flat out refusal…)
(It is hard to imagine this beautiful girl doing that, right?)
So as the parent what was I to do here? Other people were counting on her, she had agreed to do the part, my husband was gone, and I only had a couple of hours to figure out a plan.
I didn’t know for sure what I was going to do, but I did know a few things…
I knew I would not force her to do the part.
I knew I would not bribe her to do it.
I knew I would not threaten her to do it.
I also knew that I would not bail her out of an assignment she accepted.
And I knew I would not let my ego have a voice.
These are all core parenting beliefs that I hold and knew long before this incident, but I did not know how these philosophies would translate into action.
I pondered as I curled hair, made breakfast and dressed the kids. I talked to Elle throughout the morning and tried to get to the root of her concerns to see if I could address the real problem. The best I could gather is that she wasn’t doing a memorized part; instead she was asked to share her feelings and she was too scared to do that.
When I realized that no amount of talking and encouraging was going to change her mind, I knew we had to come up with a solution that would not leave the program with a hole or the women in charge in a bind. I told Elle I would not make her do the part, but I also made it clear that she would be handling the messy part of her choices.
Long story short Elle called a friend and asked her to do the part for her. Then Elle also had to call the lady in charge and tell her she would not be doing her part, but that she found someone else to do it. We role played that phone call so she would feel more comfortable doing it. Elle’s voice was shaky and she cried as she made the phone calls.
As I listened to Elle make these phone calls, tears came to my eyes. I wasn’t just emotional because Elle was, but also because I was proud of her for owning her refusal and taking care of the matter, and I was proud of me for not caving and calling for her and remaining calm on a stressful morning.
Elle was relieved when she got off the phone. She participated in the rest of the program by singing and doing a small group song as well. Her friend, Abby, did an awesome job. She was a good friend and really saved the day.
When Elle got home she wrote a thank-you note to her friend and took her a cupcake.
After much thought, I decided Elle would have no further consequences for not doing her part. I figured the trauma of the morning was enough. Plus she took care of the problem and said thank you and that was sufficient. And I also believe that we aren’t always punished when we don’t do something; we just don’t get the blessings that we would have received.
I still need to address Elle’s fears and concerns (I could write a whole post on what I really think was going on), but I think I did the right thing in that situation. And as parents we have to make such quick decisions sometimes. It’s hard to know what to do in the moment. But I believe my core parenting philosophies helped me navigate Elle’s refusal with more clarity. I am glad they were in place before a problem arrived.