Before an Expected Challenging Situation
Today is the annual Halloween party at the local zoo. Kennedy’s mom knows that her 5-year-old daughter gets excited and distracted when in public places and is dreading taking her to this event because she knows that Kennedy will forget to listen, run around and cause her mom so much worry as she struggles to keep her eye on her daughter in the crowds of children in Halloween costumes, chasing down candy!
In the car on the way there, Kennedy’s mom decides to preview the problems she expects to encounter at the zoo.
Mom: When we get there today, Kennedy there are going to be a lot of people in there and a lot going on. There are going to be kids wearing costumes, balloon animals, bouncy houses, candy and prizes, plus we’ll get to see all of the animals like we normally do when we go to the zoo.
Kennedy: This is gonna be awesome!
Mom: Yes, it’s going to be awesome, but it’s also going to be hard to remember to listen.
Kennedy: I’ll listen mom. I promise.
Mom: I know you’ll want to listen, but once you see all the people and fun things to do, I think you might accidentally forget about listening.
Kennedy: Nope. I won’t. I promise. I pinky promise, mommy!
Mom: Well just to be sure, let’s talk about it so that you know what to do when we get in there.
Kennedy: Aaah, do we have to?!
Mom: Yes we do. So when we walk in there, you’re going to see lots and lots of people. You might even see some kids from preschool or church. What do you think you should do when you walk into the zoo and see all of those people?
Mom: Well, that is true, you should probably be listening. What do you think I might say to you when we see all those people?
Mom: Yeah, I might tell you to walk. I might also tell you to stay right by me so that I can know that you’re safe.
Kennedy: Yeah. You say that all the time.
Mom: That’s because I want you to be safe. So what do you think will happen if you’re running away from me?
Kennedy: You get mad at me.
Mom: I get very scared when you’re running away with all of those people because I want you to be safe. So what do you think will happen if you run away like that and I feel scared that you’re not safe?
Kennedy: I have to hold your hand?
Mom: Ok…that might happen. What else could happen?
Kennedy: Take a time out?
Mom: So you think we might have to sit out from some of the fun so that you can think about what you’ve done that’s not safe?
Mom: Ok…that might happen too. What do you think would be the worst thing that could happen, if you keep acting unsafe and running away?
Kennedy: Um…we have to go home?
Mom: Yeah. That’s true. We might have to leave the zoo if you’re not being safe. I would be very sad to do that because I love the zoo and I know how much you do too, but that might be something we have to do to keep you safe if you forget to listen and stay near me.
Kennedy: K, mommy.
Mom: I’ll remind you when we get inside, a lot, because I know you’re just a little girl and you’re still learning all of this stuff. But I need you to listen when I remind you so that you can stay safe and we can have lots of fun together, OK?
Kennedy: OK, mommy!
When Witnessing Another’s Behaviors
While at the zoo’s Halloween party, Kennedy is putting her shoes back on after jumping in one of the bouncy houses when they see a little boy run up to the line of kids waiting to jump in the bouncy house. He pushes another child out of the way and jumps into the bouncy house. The child who is pushed aside starts to cry.
As Kennedy and her mom are leaving the bouncy house area, her mom decides to have a conversation with Kennedy about it.
Mom: Kennedy, did you just see what that boy did?
Kennedy: Yeah. He cut. And he pushed. Ms. Tiffany would put him in a time out!
Mom: So you saw that he took someone else’s place in line and pushed them out of it, and if he did that at preschool, Ms. Tiffany would give him a time out?
Kennedy: Yeah. No cuts, no butts no coconuts!
Mom: So cutting is against the rules?
Mom: Why do you think that’s a rule?
Kennedy: I dunno. But Ms. Tiffany says we can’t do it.
Mom: How do you think the other kids felt when that boy cut in line?
Kennedy: Sad. They want to jump in the punkin house.
Mom: Yeah. They had waited their turn in that long line. They were being patient and waiting until the adult told them it was their turn and then this boy just came in and took their turn. That would make me feel sad too.
Kennedy: Yeah. Me too.
Mom: What do you think is going to happen to that boy because he did that?
Kennedy: I think his mommy should tell him to leave the zoo. He’s not being very nice.
Mom: So you think that because he did this mean thing, his mommy should ask him to leave this party so that other people don’t have to feel so sad because of what he’s done to them?
Kennedy: Yeah. You should tell his mommy that.
Mom: Oh honey, I can’t tell his mommy what to do. She’s an adult and she’s in charge of him, so she’ll decide what to do for him. But if I were his mommy, you think that I should make him go home.
Mom: So if I ever see you being mean to kids, cutting in line and pushing them over, you think that I should ask you to go home because you’re hurting their feelings and ruining their fun?
Kennedy: Yeah. But mommy, I’m not gonna do that cuz that’s mean.
Mom: I’m glad to hear that, Kennedy. I’m so proud to have you as my daughter because you know how to be kind and wait your turn, even when you really, really want to jump in the giant pumpkin bouncy house! Now let’s go see what kind of candy the monkeys have!
One of the things that makes me feel the most guilt is when I put kids in a scenario that I know will tempt them to misbehave (i.e. act like a child) and I don’t think to prepare them for the temptations that are to come. I’m caught in this dilemma of not really wanting to give a consequence because it doesn’t seem fair, yet knowing that I have to do something because their behavior is inappropriate and they need to know that.
Enter the never ending loop of guilt!
Can you think of a time when you could have used the Preview Technique and felt less mom guilt? Have you used this technique and saved you and your child the energy of unnecessary conflict and hurt feelings? If you feel comfortable, share your stories below to help other moms who have been caught in that never ending loop of guilt.