In my mind, one of the most important things we need to do for our children is to teach them how to govern themselves.
We want them to be independent and know how to make decisions that will bless their lives. There sure are a lot of skills they need to learn (and be taught) for that to happen!
So I’m a big believer in what Nicholeen Peck (founder of Teaching Self Government) calls “pre-teaching.”
One thing that is very important to teach children is how to express their own opinion without being disagreeable, or controlling. This is important, because a child who knows how to do this will be more more able to resist “negative” peer pressure. They will understand that opinions should be valued and honored, and that anything less than that is not a healthy relationship.
Make up a common scenario to use with your child. You can use the “what would you do if” approach, or you can use the “scripted” approach. We’ll use both approaches here.
(In the scripted approach, you actually have written out a dialogue, and you play the part of one person,and the child plays the part of the second person. You both read the dialogue, so it doesn’t matter who plays which part. Encourage exaggerated drama - it makes it fun. Laugh a lot.)
Here’s an example of a script:
Beth: Let’s do something today.
Amy: Sounds fun!
Beth: What would you like to do?
Amy: Oh, I don’t know. I don’t care.
Beth: Well, I don’t care either.
Amy: No, you choose.
Beth: Oh, I really don’t care. Anything is fine.
…………………..On to the discussion points. Talk about these things. (It is sometimes fun to have the discussion questions written up beforehand too, and cut into strips. Put them in a jar, and take turns picking out a question. Occasionally give treats for answers! (My kids would do a lot of talking for 2 Skittles - especially if they got to choose the color!)
If discussion doesn’t come easily, then use the “what if” approach to do some more situational pre-teaching.
Possible ideas might include a conversation where Susan says, “Do you want to suggest one today, and next time I can choose?” Or……………..”What kind of movie would you prefer - a Disney one, or a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie?”
What you want to bring out in this pre-teaching is that everyone feels comfortable if they have a chance to express their opinion. It builds trust that the other person will listen to you, and that they care about what you think. No one is bossy, and no one is “unequal” in this kind of relationship. When you do NOT express your opinion, it actually sends a negative message. It sends a message that you are not confident in yourself, and that you do not consider yourself “equal” to the other person. (Be sure they understand that occasionally, we really do not have an opinion. That is fine. But if we never, ever have an opinion, that is going to send the wrong message.)
You might want to expand this idea and role play several different scenarios. If you’re having fun, you can do this in one setting - but remember that it’s better to do short, quick, fun pre-teaching, and do it regularly, often, and at random moments, than it is to spend an hour beating a topic to death. The “kill” point should be sooner, rather than too late. If it becomes a lecture, you’re not pre-teaching, you’re lecturing!