The second the words left my mouth, I knew I blew it. I had been working so hard to build trust with this little boy who had his heart broken too many times in his four years of life before we adopted him. As soon as my frustrated exclamation hit his ears, I saw him retreat inside himself and a blank look filled his eyes. I knew better than to raise my voice with him, use harsh words, and put on my “angry stance”: arms crossed, glaring down at him, lips pursed. I had allowed my anger to grow out of control.
“Mommy needs a time-out. Please look at some books on the couch while I go into my room for a few minutes,” I instructed him. Retreating to my room I moaned, “I am going to ruin my son for good! He deserves a better mother than this!”
Parenting is hard work. Parenting children who have been abused, abandoned, and neglected requires different skills. I am not a parenting pro. God did not bestow on me extra patience, wisdom, or more compassion than any other parent.
But He did give me grace. A lot of it. And access to wonderful therapists, books, websites, and other foster and adoptive parents. One of the most useful parenting tools I have learned is the “do-over.”
When my sassy toddler demands juice, I simply ask “Would you like to try asking again respectfully?” I give her a do-over. “Mommy, may I please have some juice?” usually follows.
After my son grabs a toy from his brother, I hand the toy back and allow him a do-over: “May I have the truck when you’re finished?”
Instead of lecturing, a do-over teaches respect of others and grace. A do-over allows role-playing of the appropriate desired behavior. Certain misbehaviors include a time-out (or other consequences) followed by a chance for a do-over.
Sometimes, too often, I am the one who needs a do-over. After a few minutes to cool off and pray after my angry explosion with my son, it was my turn to ask him for a do-over. Gathering his stiff little body onto my lap, I asked for forgiveness for using angry words and told him I was going to try again to patiently explain what behavior I expected from him.
Admitting to him that I had made a mistake and asking for forgiveness allowed him to view me as someone who also needs grace, not just a strict disciplinarian. By the end of our conversation, his body relaxed and the emotional wall came back down.
Without God’s grace and forgiveness, I am a hurt and abandoned child. But with His grace and forgiveness, I am adopted into His family and loved. And that is the beauty of a do-over.