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Growth Spurts: Do-Overs

By Carrie Bevell Partridge

Remember when we were kids, and there would be a disagreement over a game, and we would end up calling “Do-over!”? Well, we are trying to do more of that in our home. Specifically, we have been using this method with our sons who were adopted by our family at ages 9 and 12. Since they did not spend their childhood in our home and in our care, there is a lot of reteaching and retraining that inevitably must be done. We have used many different methods, but one that seems to be fairly successful is that of do-overs.

Most of the time the do-overs deal with dialogue between the boys that turned into something unkind, impatient, or disrespectful. We’ve spent an abundance of hours over the last year and a half that Carlos and Brandon have been home with us trying to teach them how to be kind and respectful to other people as well as to each other. (We can probably all agree that it is often the most difficult to treat our own family members with kindness and respect, and Carlos and Brandon uphold this theory.) But as with most lessons, this one is better learned through practice rather than through listening to a lecture about it.

In a do-over, we start by going back to exactly where they were standing/sitting when the conversation erupted. We ask which one of them spoke first and have him repeat what he said. After each of them recalls their next line (And, yes, they often need prompting to “remember” exactly what they said.), we ask them to consider whether or not what they said and how they said it was kind and respectful. If it passes the test, we move on to the next line; if it doesn’t pass the test, we ask the speaker to determine what he could have said or how he could have expressed himself differently. And yes, sometimes the correct answer is “I shouldn’t have said anything.”

Let me tell you that this is not the fastest method of correction. For one thing, the boys both groan when we say we’re going to have a do-over; they drag their feet as we return to the “scene of the crime”; and then they are usually very slow to remember/repeat the conversation. So yes, parental lecturing is much faster (and probably preferred by my boys), but I am coming to believe that do-overs are more effective. I think it has something to do with muscle memory or something. And do-overs are not only good for re-doing conversations; they are also good for correcting things like slamming doors, kicking soccer balls in the house, interrupting conversations, taking something away from someone else without asking, anything that resembles “Me first!,” walking by your sibling and pushing him for no reason… The list goes on and on. And on. Lots of opportunities for do-overs.

There are also plenty of times when we as parents need a do-over. (Amen?) I could pretty much use one on a daily basis, because I find myself speaking unkindly, impatiently, or disrespectfully to my family, and I very much wish I could start back at the beginning. And sometimes I do start over or at least apologize for my behavior. It’s not an easy thing to do, but I firmly believe that our children learn a great deal from the examples we set for them. So if I’m going to hold them to a certain standard in how they should treat one another, then I’d better hold myself to that same standard or to an even higher one.

Do you implement do-overs in your home? You might be surprised at their effectiveness. They involve more time and effort than just giving verbal reprimands, but I am realizing that the payoff might be much better.

About The Author

Carrie Partridge

Carrie Bevell Partridge grew up in Memphis, TN with her parents and four siblings. She attended Mississippi College, where she met her husband Kevin. They have been married for 20 years and have five children. They live in Ridgeland, MS. Carrie has written the “Growth Spurts” column and managed social media for Parents & Kids Magazine since 2011.

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