We’ve invented a new rule at my house. And, as rules go, it’s a good one.
My 10-year-old is moving into that pre-teen phase—the kind that inspires parental facial ticks and wistful thoughts about what it was like (as a friend and I call it) “B.C.”—Before Children.
It’s a vague memory, at best.
Every morning is like playing Russian roulette. We spin the barrel and most of the time our beautiful, cheerful daughter comes down the stairs and all is right with the world.
However, although the odds are in our favor, we do get the occasional bullet.
Her mood can turn on a dime. In movie terms, she goes from Little Miss Sunshine to The Bad Seed, and just beneath the surface I can see that my sweet little girl is just as perplexed as we are at her sudden grumpiness.
Truthfully, we all have our moments. Snappiness is not unusual in most families. We’ve learned to handle it by establishing house rules like “,” a requirement just after waking up in the morning—and before you talk to anybody. We also use the “” application, where you try adding the words “you idiot” to the end of your sentence. If it doesn’t sound out of place—you’ve said it wrong!
But even those tried and true methods don’t always work. Sometimes it just is what it is, and the eye rolling and slightly sarcastic attitude take over.
Last week, my daughter and I were having what seemed to be a rerun of the same old argument—the kind where you don’t even really know what you're arguing about. It was escalating. I could tell she was just overwhelmed, and to me it felt like Groundhog Day. I was done. So I said something she didn’t expect.
“You know what, honey? Let’s just skip it.”
“Um, what?” she said, acting a little like she had entered an alternate universe.
“Let’s skip it. We both know if this goes any further it’s going to end with you losing a privilege and me feeling frustrated. You’ll come up to me later and apologize because you don’t really want to be acting this way. Then we’ll hug—blah, blah, blah. So let’s just skip to the apologies, agree to work on it and move on with our day.”
“I’m in,” she said, clearly relieved to be out of the hole she’d dug.
We hugged and she made a promise to try to communicate more respectfully.
As soon as my son got wind of the "Skip It!" rule he wanted in, too. So we decided to establish the boundaries.
So far, this is what we have:
- The “Skip It!” rule can only be applied when all parties are in agreement and must be sealed with handshake or hug.
- “Skip It!” implies an apology and total forgiveness by both parties.
- The “Skip It!” concept is for smaller issues only and cannot be used to get out of real trouble or a sincere apology.
- Once “Skip It!” is applied, all parties must agree to learn from the situation and put it behind them, preferably with a sense of humor.
We’re still on a trial basis, so the rules will continue evolve, but since “Skip It!” came into the household, I must admit, we’ve had fewer issues and seem to be lightening up.
And FYI—my husband has invoked “Skip It!” many, many, many times and swears it’s the best rule yet!
Taryn Grimes-Herbert is the author of the I’ve Got character-building book series for children, and was 2010’s Woman of Achievement in the Arts Honoree for Orange County, NY. Calling upon her professional acting experience on Broadway, film and television, she speaks out and takes her books into classrooms hoping to help kids build character, develop empathy and learn to create a positive future through creative dramatics activities.