Flexibility is of the most valuable skills you can teach your kids. What do we mean by flexibility? The first definition, according to dictionary.com, is, “capable of being bent, usually without breaking,” and the second is “…adaptable.” While “adaptable,” is a great synonym, the “without breaking” part of the first definition serves a purpose as well. Our kids need to be able to adapt to situations without breaking down.
Many kids who struggle socially are very rigid in their thinking – they only want to play their game, and can only see from their own perspective. While it’s okay for them to feel the way that they feel (“Ugh! I really don’t want to play that game!” or “I wanted to be It! I never get to be It!”), we need to show them how vital it is to be able to adapt to alternative agendas. Flexibility, cooperation, compromise… it’s all essential to forming reciprocal relationships. Dealing with disappointing and disagreeable situations is a part of life for everyone. Life is easier, and more fun, if we can accept others’ points of view with an attitude of, “Okay, this isn’t what I really want to do, but maybe we can play my game next time,” or, “Maybe there’s something I can learn from this.”
So how do we help our rigid kids to be flexible? Here are a few ways:
- Praise them WHENEVER they demonstrate flexibility, even if it’s in the smallest ways. Praise is usually a great motivator and can be used to highlight the importance of flexibility. Let them know that you’re going to make a big deal about it!
- Announce that your family is going to play a game this week called, “The Unexpected Changes Challenge!” Make it fun and build up excitement for it. Say something like, “I have a great idea… This week we’re going to change some things up that you may or may not like. Now here’s the challenge… You ready?? Every time you’re flexible and handle changes with a positive attitude, you’ll get a star (or points). Bonus points can be received for happily agreeing to do what someone else wants to do instead of what you want to do! At the end of the week (or after a couple days with younger kids), we’re going to add up those points and go celebrate the new, flexible you! How many points do you think you should have to go celebrate? What should we do to celebrate?”