How a Second Chance Question Can Make Us Better Moms

The following post is from Kat of Inspired To Action:

Source: Alyssa L. Miller

A few months ago I stumbled upon a phrase that has saved my sanity. A phrase that single handedly reduced the amount of bickering in my home. A phrase that frees me from mommy guilt and shines the hallowed light of wisdom on the hearts and minds of my children. A phrase that shall go down in history…

“Kat…will you stop with the melodrama and get on with this magical little phrase of yours…?”

Oh, yeah, right…

The phrase is… {drumroll} “What could you have done differently?”

Perhaps you were hoping for something a bit more profound? No worries, let me show you how powerful these words are.

Second Chance Scenario 1

My kids are playing outside. My son and youngest daughter are fighting over a scooter. It’s my son’s scooter, but my daughter was already playing with it when my son walked over, pushed her off and tried to take it. They both come running into the house upset and telling their sides of the story.

This is all completely hypothetical…of course.

Formerly, my response would have been:
1. Calm them down.
2. Ask what happened.
3. Ask them to stop talking at the same time.
4. Calm them down, again.
5. Ask one kid what happened.
6. Listen while kid #2 hops around desperate to tell their side of the story.
7. Decide who should have the scooter.
8. Listen to protests.
9. Send them back out to play, operating on a very weak truce.

Now, I simply say:
1. “I see you are upset with one another. What could you have done differently?”
2. Then, I listen as each of them comes up with the exact answer I would have previously given to them in lecture form.
3. Then I say, “Great answer! You really know how to handle the situation. Now go do that.”

Honestly? It’s like magic. Even my 4 year old knows where he’s gone wrong, and how he could do things differently. And since the question is entirely self focused, my children spend their brainpower fixing what is actually in their power to fix, instead of blaming or trying to control one another.

I know it almost sounds “too simple” to work, but trust me and try it. It’s kind of awesome.

Second Chance Scenario 2

I am a wreck. It’s the end of the day and the kids are finally in bed. I was grumpy, impatient, grumpy, annoyed, grumpy, tired, grumpy, frustrated and…grumpy.

Closing the doors to their rooms after kissing them goodnight was akin to dragging myself across the finish line of a 100 mile ultra marathon. Except harder.

I could have lamented about how miserable I was at being a mom. I could have listed all the things I did wrong. I could have berated myself for not living up to my ideals.

Instead? I asked myself a simple question, “What could I have done differently?”

After I’ve sufficiently answered, I continue the conversation with myself, “Great! Now go do that tomorrow.”

When I ask that question, I know that those thoughts are the only ones that matter. I am better able to recognize guilt, condemnation and other unhelpful thoughts and replace them with positive actions I can take the next day.

The Power of Second Chances

Training our children isn’t about simply punishing wrong responses. It’s even more importantly about giving second chances and teaching them the right responses.

When we ask them “what they could have done differently?” we are giving them the gift of a “do over.” We are saying that we believe in them and their ability to do the right thing.

Could you give yourself or those around you more second chances? What are the “phrases” that have helped you as a mom?

Kat blogs at Inspired To Action, a site dedicated to helping moms develop the habits and skills they need to effectively manage their homes and raise children who are prepared to change the world. Kat loves music, running, technology, Jesus and Tex-Mex food. Not necessarily in that order.

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