Parents: If You Want It, Act As If
You've heard the advice, “Fake it 'til you make it.”
Have you ever considered using it as a parenting strategy?
Relationship expert Michele Weiner-Davis teaches a technique to couples called “Act as if.” And guess what? It works for parents, too!
Many times we encounter problems with our kids when we assume how they'll behave, feel, or react. For example, “Oh, Jenny won't try anything at the cookout. She's so picky,” or “If I tell Sam we're not going to the pool, he'll have a meltdown.”
Whenever we predict future negative outcomes, we unconsciously behave in ways that convey our expectations and bring about the very outcome we hope to avoid.
Rather than expecting the worst, it's helpful to ask yourself: How would I approach this situation differently if I expected a positive outcome?
Then, act as if you expect that result.
Here's an example from my own life: When my family visited Boulder, Colorado a few years ago, we went on a hike. It was the first time my daughters had seen mountains and the first time they had ever gone hiking.
Dalia wanted to climb on, and jump off, every single rock.
Since I tend to be an Anxious Annie at times, I started to predict the worst: She'll slip and fall and bleed and cry and we'll have to take her to the hospital and we're out in the middle of nowhere and our trip will be ruined…etc.
Had I acted from this line of thinking, I probably would've barked at Dalia to get down off the rocks. I might have stayed very close behind her, saying “helpful” things like, “Look out!” or “Don't step there!” or “Careful. CAREFUL!”
Sensing my uneasiness might have caused her to become tense, lose her balance, and fall — exactly as I had feared.
Instead, I acted as if I expected her to trust her own body and stability, and to ask for help when she needed it.
I allowed her to explore and be adventurous. Not only did she not fall, she ended up having an incredible time and felt a great sense of independence and accomplishment from climbing and jumping on all those rocks without holding my hand. She got to experience the joys of hiking and being out in nature! In the mountains!
Ok, your turn. Think of a situation in which you'd ordinarily predict a negative outcome. In the comments below, answer the following questions:
1) How would you handle the situation given your assumptions?
2) What would be the best-case scenario?
3) How will you approach the situation differently when you expect a positive outcome?
I can't wait to read your answers!
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