“All the World is a Stage.”
Kids know when the adult thinks the curtain has fallen, the lights turned off and the audience has gone home. They have this uncanny ability to know when the adult is “faking it.” The easiest way to prevent a difficult fall from the staging platform, is to practice in private what is acted on stage.
Kids understand about “bad hair days.” Kids are quite forgiving when they know I am doing my best, but things go wrong anyway. Kids are gentle, caring, responsible and helpful when my stage suddenly becomes a terminate infested haven.
How many times have I been leading an ABC (Adventure Based Counseling) exercise or playing with New Games when I did something that was not helpful to the exercise or game? It could be as simple as having placed the orange boundary cones too far apart or too close together. Or, I could have given an instruction that totally flummoxed the ability to enjoy the exercise or game. I can’t remember one time that a kid became so angry or disillusioned at my ineptness that they quit playing.
Here’s the way it would play out:
Me: “Hey, guys, my fault. Sorry about that. Guess I shouldn’t have put the cones so close to the bleachers.”
Kids: “Can we start over from here?”
Me: “I think I made it too easy. Something’s not right.”
Kids: “If you take out one hula hoop it’ll make it a lot harder.”
Me: “That makes sense. Everybody okay with that?”
Take a look at these seemingly overly simplistic pieces of dialogue. What was happening?
The old Refrigerator Rules at work on a casual, daily stage. Respectful, Responsible, Resourceful and Nice to Be Around. Not only do I practice them on and off stage, I have this expectation that others will practice them, also.
My belief is that Kids will be glad to mirror whatever is given to them. If a kid chooses not to “mirror” then after a while that kid and I will find some time alone to talk about the Refrigerator Rules I live by and expect of others. Gently, encouragingly and in brevity.
(I will admit that there have been a very few at-risk kids who couldn’t give up old emotional baggage and so clung to “old rules of survival,” thus not able to engage in a trusting and safe relationship.)
The moment I walk out my front door, I am on my kids’ world stage. But before I opened that door, I was in rehearsal for the real thing. To make that stage as safe and trustworthy as I can possible make it. Yes, I will be human and miss my mark, forget my lines and stumble, but if I do it without malice and with good heart, my audience will work with me; caring for me with equally good hearts.