Feel Like Yelling? Try Instant Replay* Instead

You're sitting down to dinner and your 7-year-old whines, "I HATE green beans! Nnyah!"

Which response do you choose?

(a) "Honey, these green beans have sweet sauce. You love sweet sauce!" (restrained annoyance)
(b) "If you can't be kind, you can't come to this table!" (yelling)
(c) "Aw sweetie, I'm so sorry you feel that way!" (cooing, gooey voice)
(d) "Robot does not compute. Boop. Robot instant replay. Beep boop." (robot voice)

If you want your child to be quiet and possibly do what you ask, then options (a), (b) and (c) will suffice. Give 'em a whirl! We all have, right? 

I challenge you to think beyond the typical scripts.

Because the scripts don't always work (in terms of changing a behavior), and they may not be teaching your broader values. Sure, sometimes you want your kid to sit down and not complain about dinner. Fine! Great. But sometimes we want to work on something bigger, a project with longer-term payoff. Things like: 

How to model disagreement? Responding to a dislike? And with authority, obey at all costs or challenge authority in a constructive way? 

So when you're up for a project, or even just a more playful response (because this can just be about play), there's option (d).

You respond in robot voice. You invite your child to try again ("instant replay, robot version!"), which prompts her to switch into robot character. With minimal words you've signaled:

  • her first attempt at communication wasn't ideal
  • you're interested in what she has to say
  • you want to engage, and you're up for doing so playfully
  • you forgive/can move on from a negative behavior

The best way to develop this game is to practice in non-tense situations.

While building train tracks call out, "instant replay, monster version!" The first few times take some explanation and modeling. You practice the skills and establish the rules of the game, so it becomes natural to play. And, importantly, let your child initiate the game too. This gives her the power of feedback and a playful strategy for tense times. 

I'm not promising miracles. I am suggesting that instant replay is a way to speak your child's language while giving flexible, forgiving and playful feedback. You set boundaries without shaming or blaming. And like most of our tools and suggestions, it's way more fun than multiple choices (a), (b) and (c).

*Instant Replay is an original improv-parenting idea developed by instructor Alex Cleberg. All credit for the idea and practical application goes to Alex and his daughter Eden, who loves making him instant replay when we returns home after a long day of work.