Playdates are the best kind of summer school.
There is nothing sweeter than a playdate on a lazy summer afternoon. These can be the best outlets for training ground with your children. Host a playdate and let your child play naturally like they usually would do, but keep within earshot of them interacting with their friends. What are you hearing? What are you seeing? Are they being kind and gracious and putting other people first, or do they need help in these areas?
After the playdate is over, sit down and have a conversation with them or role-play some of the things that have happened. Empower them by explaining how they could have done it differently or show them new skills to apply in those same situations. After a few days, invite that friend over again and see how they implement the tools. I encourage you to remind them before the playdate about the tools or maybe even have hand signs as code words. Perhaps they need to learn to put their friends’ desires first, so maybe you want to have a code word of putting up your pinky finger. This keeps your child protected from shame in front of their friends and is the little code word between the two of you where you are letting them know they need to increase putting other people first.
Children have both strengths and weaknesses. Let me give you an example of how a child’s strengths can turn into a weakness. My daughter is a super strong leader. I probably would have let her stay at home and babysit at the age of 5 if it was legal. But because she’s such a strong leader, and has the end result as her focus, she has little regard for the success of others. I do not want to shut down her strength, but I do want to strengthen her weakness. So while the leadership skills will be there no matter what, I have intentionally gone after teaching her to lead in love. We have talked about it, role-played and I have given her plenty of intentional situations in which she can apply leadership in love.
Tell them stories about your friends growing up. What are some things that your friends did that made you come alive and felt very important?. What are some things your friends have done over the years that have hurt your heart or shaped who you are in a way that God did not intend?
Do you have kids who like to interrupt you? I taught the kids in the time of peace what I expected, and then we role-played, practiced, and got good at the technique before we were in ‘need’ of it. I explained that they are SOOO important, but so am I. When I am in the middle of something with someone ELSE, I need the respect of not having someone demanding my attention elsewhere. We had FUN role-playing what a demanding child looks like when Mama is talking to someone else or on the phone. We talked about WHY interrupting wasn’t okay and how it made others feel. The bottom line it is a self-control issue. I instructed them to put their hand on my arm, which signaled, “Mom, I need you.” It is important then for the adult to put their hand over their hand, which means, “I see you.” Then, when the timing was appropriate, I would say, “Excuse me, Mrs. Smith, could you hold for a moment?” and would direct my attention to them. If they came barging into the room or demanding my attention, I would simply say, “Excuse me, Mrs. Smith, could you hold on for a moment?” And then I would say out loud to my child, “You are so important, but so is Mrs. Smith. I need you to wait until I am done,” and then when I got off the phone, we would role-play and practice again. My kids use this tool to this day, and it is golden to have respectful kids who know how to wait their turn.
Teach this to your child and then set up a playdate specifically to practice this way of learning how to get your attention when you are busy.
Childhood is not the season to expect perfection but to give them the tools to live successful lives.