Can I Have A Redo? The Merlin Works October Newsletter

“Stop chewing on that battery!”

“Don’t use the hand towel to wipe your butt!”

“I am not a kleenex!”

“Quit kicking my bra down the hall… that’s my good one!”

I never thought I would yell so much at my kids. But, to be fair, I never thought they would do so many idiotic things.

So many things that I never imagined another person would do, that I would have to chastise them about. I remember when my boys were littler and would put rocks in their mouth. I would see other mothers scolding their kids, “No! Yuck! Yucky! Don’t put rocks in your mouth!” I would smile and think to myself, “I don’t need to tell my kids not to put rocks in their mouths. The rocks will give them natural feedback and they will soon not want to put rocks in their mouth.” I was wrong. They kept putting rocks–and all kinds of disturbing things–in their mouths. And other places. For years. And eventually I joined the ranks of parents yelling at their kids about what they are putting in their mouths.

“What is that in your mouth? Is that a twist tie? stick? sock? Lego!?! Spit it OUT!”

Even though I try to be a positive parent, aware of how much I say no and trying to reduce it, I can find my self slipping in to saying no, yelling, or being too directive. Especially with my oldest, who, bless him, has the biggest heart and imagination of any kid I know, and a body that ends up harming me, his brother, and anyone in his orbit on a daily basis. (He also really likes putting things in his mouth.) He’s too rough, often not because he’s trying to hurt someone (although that does happen,) but because he’s lacking the input and awareness he needs to modulate his movements. In other words, playing and cuddling with him is like playing with a baby tiger–exhilarating, a little out of control, glorious, and sometimes dangerous.

Recently, I saw a parenting coach who gave me some great advice which I already knew (which is the best kind) but I hadn’t thought to apply to this situation.

She taught me about The Redo. She said with kids like mine, they often get a ton of negative feedback. “That’s too rough! Stop it! Don’t do that!” One alternative she suggested is I can give him feedback and offer him a redo. So when he high-fives me too hard, which he often does out of excitement and wanting to show off his strength, I can say, “Ouch. That hurt. Can I have a redo, this time more gently?” I did it just this morning and it worked like magic. He totally knew what a redo was, he was able to give me a softer high five (but still firm) and we were able to end on a positive note about how good that felt.

This is the same framework I’ve been using for years teaching improv and doing corporate training. As much as possible, I like to side coach in class and give feedback that the participant can immediately implement and see positive results. That way, they welcome my feedback as a tool to help them improve and grow. And I feel awesome because I can actually see that I’m teaching them something. And ideally, a teacher should create an experience for a student that they could not have on their own and this redo technique is definitely a way to facilitate that.

It makes me think, where else in my life have I been missing the opportunity to ask for a redo, as a perpetrator or a victim? In this time where so much of our ancient behavior is being renegotiated, would redos be an option? A way to give feedback, allow someone to try out a new behavior, and end on a slightly more positive note? The parenting coach made it clear that this isn’t something you do in a crisis. Not when your kid is running into the street–you yell, you grab them, whatever you need to do to make them safe. But in those middle moments, where we want to show the people we love how we want to be treated differently, maybe a redo will do.

About Shana Merlin

Merlin Works is the brainchild of Shana Merlin: improviser, teacher, and performer. Since 1996, she’s been leading classes that stretch people’s imaginations, push them out of their comfort zones, and make them laugh out loud for hours at a time.
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