Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Try Again

I have a parenting tactic for dealing with bad behavior, particularly defiant behavior, that really works!

I learned this idea in our pre-adoption training, it is covered in the awesome book The Connected Child: Bring hope and healing to your adoptive family by Karyn Purvis and David Cross, but it works beautifully with my biological children as well as my daughter who joined our family through adoption.

It is the re-do.

Here's how it works from a real life scenario I had with my 3 year old daughter tonight:

Me:  "It's time to put the napkins on the table for dinner." (This is one of her regular chores.)

Her:  "MOM!  NO, I'm doing stamps and markers!"

Me:  "Try again."

Her:  "Okay."

And she literally put down the craft stuff she was playing with and went and did the chore!

In times past I might have handled the defiance with a consequence, maybe a lecture, too about obeying.  Or maybe I would have repeated the request and counted to three to emphasize that it needed to be done right then.  But, those tactics often just escalate the issue.

 The beauty of the re-do is that there is no frustration, no arguing, no tears!  The child realizes they answered wrong because they were told to "try again" and then they have a choice to take the re-do and do it right without any further consequence or lecturing.

Of course every child is going to have times that the re-do doesn't work and they either refuse to try again or when they do, it is still bad.  Then I have to step in with more sternness.  But, I've really been amazed at how often "Try again" works, even with my strong-willed children (50% of my little darlings)!

Here's another way I daily find use for the phrase "Try again":

My 3 year old puts her shoes on the wrong feet 95% of the time!  Really, wouldn't you expect her to get it right at least half the time?  And flip-flops!  Who could stand to wear flip-flops on the wrong feet?  My 3 year old.

Do you use "Try again"?  Does it work for you?

Find more Works for Me Wednesday here.


  1. I've never heard of "try again" in this context, but it makes so much sense. I like that it makes discipline about teaching rather than punishing.

    As for your daughter's flip flops, maybe you could use a pen to trace her foot onto the flip flop so she could see when it's not on correctly. You'd just have to explain that when she sees her toes aren't inside the lines, then her shoes are on the wrong feet.

  2. Isn't it amazing how a really simple tactic can be very effective sometimes? I have found it works really well with my son to impose a consequence immediately (rather than giving warnings) but then allow him a second chance to do it right.

    I think Meghan has a really good idea about the flip-flops.

  3. It works for us...sometimes and sort of. One or our boys is more likely to take the opportunity. The other will dig his heels in further as if he is somehow spiting us by refusing to collaborate and resolve the issue. After 2 minutes to an hour or more of raging, he is always quite happy to re-do as sweetly as you please, but I haven't figured out yet how to effectively help him shift from opposition to collaboration without the unfortunate in-between stage. Often, I find it most helpful for me, since it allows me not to panic and spiral into my own dysregulation, by giving me a script, and a clear sequence of events to follow in these situations (when I am focused and trying hard, I am pretty good at following the "plan").

    I have dug into more of Purvis' suggestions to follow a 4-step approach with the child who is inclined to disregard the initial request for a re-do - starting with the "re-do" offer, then the "time in" until ready to re-do and repair (without further engaging in talk or reaction to the child, unless for safety and containment...which we often have to do), then the re-cap of the issue and the re-do, then the repair/connection, and move on. Of everything I have found, I do like the Purvis approach the best - pretty simple to remember in the heat of the moment, not to heavy on words, matter-of-fact with a bit of nurture at the end, etc. I really like her focus on respect as an expectation for family life and relationships, and how this approach is not heavy-handed, but does hold the child to a standard of behaviour and an expectation that issues are resolved before their day continues.


I'd love to hear what you think!