The director ripped and burned a CD for each child that has the entire play on it. We've already listened to it several times. They'll practice each week to learn the songs and their lines, then (as always happens) it will probably be every night for a couple of weeks before the play (somehow I sense that I will get roped into helping at this point!). The girls will have to know how to listen for their cues, where to stand on the stage, and how to act "natural."
The success of the play depends on each person learning to be comfortable in a role that is completely different from who they are in real life. And that takes time and practice.
I got to thinking about how much of our job as parents is to "rehearse" with our kids what will happen outside the four walls of our home (and even inside!). Our kids don't know all their lines yet. They haven't learned all their cues. They can't be expected to improvise yet.
But we've been there. We can prepare them for what to expect when they are in a situation that's unfamiliar.
I like to think of it ripping and burning their own personalized CD. By practicing ahead of time, we give them something they can "play back" so they can feel confident and natural when they are on the stage of life. They will know how to recognize, and will be looking for, the cue. They will not be caught off-guard. They will have already decided what to do or say in advance.
Here are some things that we have "role played" at home, well ahead of the situation, starting at very young ages:
- Looking adults in the eye, how to shake hands, and generally how to make chit-chat
- How to start a conversation with a new friend (kids LOVE this one!)
- Saying "thank you" to a compliment / giving a compliment
- Saying, "I was wrong, I'm sorry, will you please forgive me?"
- Using the proper utensils /placing napkin in lap / general good manners at a restaurant
- Waiting for adults or holding a door for a lady
- What to say and do when someone takes your toy/ takes the last cookie/ wears your favorite scarf without asking, etc. (my standard line is, "There are ALWAYS going to be annoying people in your life, even when you are an adult. So how are you going to handle the situation?")
- What to say and do when offered drugs/a ride by someone who's been drinking/ when someone wants to ask you out/ otherwise putting you in a compromising situation
- How to share your faith in a few sentences (we are working on this one with older kids)
Little kids LOVE to play pretend, and will totally get into "rehearsing." Especially when they get to be "Mom" or "Dad." Go ahead - let them dress up, get out the spotlight, and be generous with the props. But be warned: they will be utterly brutal in how they characterize you. Don't take it personally.
The key for our big kids to get into role playing is keeping the tone light, and doing it when things are going well (ie, not 15 minutes after you just had an argument). They also seem to do better when they are part of a group (even if it's just another sibling), or if they are "teaching" the little ones (this is how I console myself - they can so easily tell someone else "how" to do the right thing...I know some day they will be able to put it into practice, too!).
Seems like our favorite time to do this is either (a) in the car on the way somewhere; (b) at the dinner table; or (c) at bedtime, when we are talking about our day. There are teachable moments - be looking for them - usually when they ask a question. These are unique opportunities for them to work through how they will handle a situation, and you can be there to guide them.
Of course, all this is based on the principle of ripping and burning God's word into our hearts.
How can a young man keep his way pure?What are some other things we can "practice" with our kids to prepare them for life?
By living according to your word.
I seek you with all my heart;
do not let me stray from your commands.
I have hidden your word in my heart
that I might not sin against you.
Praise be to you, O LORD;
teach me your decrees.