As a mom of boys, I have lost count of how many times I’ve said “what were you THINKing?” or “did you THINK before you did that?” or “what did you THINK would happen if you did/said that?”
I was trying to find a creative way to get them to STOP and THINK before speaking or acting, so I recently started asking my boys, “Did you run that by the boss?” meaning, the boss in your head that makes the decisions. Of course, my 10 year comes back with “the boss don’t care!“
So, I’ve been trying to figure out how to train/help 7 and 10-year-old boys to THINK. Then, I admitted to myself that I may have some shortcomings in this department as well. In my audiobook-filled commute in the past few days, I was half-focused on the book when what I was hearing settled into my brain, rattled around a little and resulted in an epiphany. This quote came up in Emotional Agility by Susan David (which I can say is great read for everyone!):
That space holds so much power. And I thought that I’d understood this space when I’d come up with the “run it by the boss” question. But something was missing.
After reading Emotional Agility, I’m realizing it’s actually a 2-step process and it was the most important step (Step One) that I left out before asking the boys about the boss’ approval.
STEP ONE is the key – that kids need to actually know what their values are. We’re working on this right now with my boys. I want them to know who they are and we ask things like “What is most important to you?” or “What kind of person do you want to be?”
We can help by throwing out words like honesty, compassion, integrity, peaceful, respect, love, responsibility, healthy, self-reliance, successful, etc. But I think the first step is truly having your child (or yourself) think about what their CORE VALUES really are. [NOTE: I am not a child psychologist, but I do acknowledge that value discussions should be age-appropriate, i.e. a 6-year old cannot connect certain values to decisions as a 13-year-old might.]
STEP TWO is when we can consider “running it by the boss”.
I’ve had opportunities to remind them that “running something by the boss” is really to buy them time to actually think, to grab that space between the stimulus and response and use it, think, imagine running your piece of paper to your big boss at a big desk in your brain and have the boss ponder it, scratch her (or his) chin and compare the question to your brain’s CORE VALUES, then finally, give the “yea” or “nay”. Then, and only then, is when you can respond to the issue at hand. Now, I understand that this doesn’t mean every decision you make after running it by the boss will be the mistake-free right one, but it certainly involves more conscious choice.
My hope is that this little bitty question about their decision-making process, this image of running the choice by the core value boss, will stick.
And not only stick for the 7 and 10 year old boys who are faced with decisions of learning swears, deciding whether to cheat on a spelling test, choosing to step in when another kid is being bullied, etc. but also stick with the 15 and 18 year old boys who will need to handle decisions involving drugs, alcohol, sex, violence, and all of the things I barely want to think about now.
I truly hope that throughout their lives, no matter if the boss’ office remains their visual, that they can recognize and honor that space between the stimulus and their response, allow their decisions and actions to be based on THOUGHT rather than emotional reaction.
At least I know that I will start utilizing this more! I have my own boss visual to run things by. Funny, she looks a little bit like my wife.