Over the last couple of years, I’ve logged tons of hours in improv class and performing with teams. Little did I know when I first started class, that the principles I was learning then would help me navigate through my most difficult parenting moments now.
The first rule of improvisation is to agree. Agree and say yes. Saying no will bring the scene to a screeching halt.
For example: If I say “Take a bite of this delicious pie” and my partner says “That’s not pie, it’s an empty plate!”…there’s really no where to go from there!
Yes, there are times where the word “no” needs to be used- but I try to say yes, and to collaborate rather than shut things down as much as possible.
When I first had Max, I was a nervous wreck mom about his sleep! I wouldn’t go anywhere that would conflict with his routine. Actually, if I’m being really honest- this was the case until I had Sammy (ahem…18 months later). I was just scared of him feeling any discomfort or tiredness. It wasn’t until I had Sammy and saw how flexible she was (out of necessity), that I realized I was actually preventing my kids from becoming well-rounded by saying “no” all the time- even if those “no’s” were out of concern.
It dawned on me, that just like in improv, I needed to create moments of collaboration. To relinquish my authority and become a team player, by building on my family’s ideas and accepting opportunities that scared me.
Last weekend my family went up to the mountains. It was our first family vacation, and I wanted so badly to say no out of fear. We went with another family, 5 kids total- and again…that fear of sleep logistics was giving me anxiety. I actively pushed myself to say “yes” leading up to the trip, to build upon everyone’s ideas and arrangements- and let myself get excited. We had the BEST time. Did the kids sleep great? Nope. But they adjusted, they played so hard they didn’t have time to get grumpy and we were surrounded by other supportive parents and kids that helped us make it fun. I’m so glad we went. Great memories in the books, for the price of a little lost sleep- and we all survived!
Tomorrow we’ll have a 3 year old- so we’re also starting to navigate some new behavior over here….ya know, the kind of behavior that makes you question all of your parenting up to this point…and eat lots of chocolate. I’ve been working so hard to apply these principles during difficult moments, and it helps so much. Sometimes it feels like a lifetime, but if I support those frustrated 3 year old feelings rather than deny them- we seem to actually get somewhere in the end. I try to turn things into team activities and really work together. It takes 5 times as long, but I include him in the cooking, I open drawers and let him pick his own outfits (that gets interesting) and I have him set a timer for 5 more minutes when he’s upset about coming in from the backyard. I really try to acknowledge his feelings and then come up with a solution instead of telling him why it makes no sense for him to be feeling a certain way. Again, if he’s telling me “it’s a pie”, I need to listen.
I certainly don’t think I have it all figured out….boy oh boy…I’m learning every single day! I’m sharing because parenting is hard, and I love sharing my experiences and also learning from others. I urge you to give it a try. Next time before you say no, wait just a second- and think about how you can shift to a yes and collaborate with your kiddos, husband, friends…anyone.
Wishing you a wonderful week!