Our youngest daughter sauntered up to her nine-year-old brother and grabbed his hand. She looked him in the eye and, using every bit of earnestness that her five years could muster, happily told him how much she would appreciate his help in getting the crayons and markers down from the cabinet so she could “do her homework”. She said that she knew he would have to stop what he was doing on the computer to help her, and that she was thankful for his “benevolence”.
My heart melted and my smile widened. I told the children that I had seen what had happened and began to pass out hugs. The first went to my daughter for having had the awareness to show appreciation to her brother and for recognizing his efforts to make her life better. The next hug went to her brother for behaving selflessly to help his little sister. Interestingly, it was the behavior and the attitude with which he undertook his task that inspired her to make the “Good Movie” in the first place!
We’ve noticed that being able to step outside of yourself and to see the world from that perspective is a gift. We’ve told our kids that their siblings, friends, and strangers will be watching their behavior and choices as if any given situation were a “movie”. Even more powerful is that they are taught that they get to choose what “movie” they want to direct. Are they going to create a “good movie” or a “bad movie”? This “movie” concept is the “lens” through which they learn to see their circumstances and surroundings. It is a valuable tool through which they learn awareness of their choices and those of others.
In times of conflict between children it’s not unusual for us to step in with one quick admonishment: “As you work through this problem, ask yourselves if the movie you’re directing is a “good” one or a “bad” one”.
A bit of caution, however: “Making a movie” is not meant to teach kids merely to “keep up appearances” or to “put up a front” for others. It is much different from that. Instead, it’s a way to help a child develop the gift of being “in the moment” and actually see every side of the situation in which they find themselves. They can learn to objectively observe their own choices and behavior. Their observation is from their own point of view (the inside) and also from the point of view of others (the outside). It is as if they’re looking through the lens of a movie director’s camera.
The “movie” framework also helps children get rid of that ever-present layer of self-protection that may keep them from seeing their own mistakes when mistakes exist. The result is that the kids learn to see their good or bad behavior and their choices for what they actually are. The “movie” theme is a constant reminder that kids should evaluate and re-evaluate each choice “on the fly” to make sure that each one is appropriate.
So the next time you catch your children being “good” in their dealings with one another stop and celebrate it! Take a moment and look past your natural tendency to say nothing because “that’s the way they’re supposed to behave”. Instead, shower them with the praise they’ve earned – their own little “Oscar” for having “made a good movie”!