Role-Play Your Way to Better Behavior


I remember participating in role-playing games as a kid and I never liked them. I always thought they were silly and was a little embarrassed when I had to play my role. However, I now realize the value of role-playing, especially when it comes to teaching kids proper behavior.

I’m sure many of you can relate. I have three girls, so whining just seems to come with the territory. However, my 7-year-old’s whining and smart-mouthing had become more frequent and intolerable. Her dad and I tried taking things away to correct the behavior. We had many talks with her about proper behavior and respect. But, the whining and back-talking continued.

It came to a peak one morning when she asked for a glass of water. I was on my way upstairs so I told her I would get it for her as soon as I came back down (she can’t reach the glasses in our kitchen otherwise she would have done it herself). She whined about how thirsty she was and she couldn’t wait. The whining continued until I came back down to give her what she wanted.

The continuous whining made me snap and I said, “You are too old to be acting like this, this is not how you behave! If someone asks you to wait, what are you supposed to do?”

Do you know what she said (of course in a whiny voice)? “I don’t know!”

At first I thought that response was absolutely ridiculous. How can a 7-year-old not know what it means to wait patiently? Then I realized that it might actually be true. She may be so accustomed to whining with me (not at school, of course!) that it had become a natural way for her to react.

So, I told her to switch roles with me. She was going to be the mom and I was going to be her and we role-played the correct response and behavior. I saw something click inside her head and I knew that she got it, finally!

As silly as I thought role-playing was when I was a kid, I now feel it is an invaluable way to communicate with my kids and I will use this method every chance I get. I’m not saying that she will never whine again, but I now know what I need to do to help her understand how to behave in certain situations.

So, if your child whines, argues, throws fits, whatever the behavior is that you’re trying to correct – role-play away! I hope you see the behavior improve and, more importantly, I hope your child “gets it”.

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