Do-over. Doover. Mulligan. Fancy words for second chance. We all appreciate it when someone offers us a do-over after we’ve messed up. Learn to harness the power of the mighty mulligan in your parenting.
Face it, parenting is difficult. But we all want to do right by our kids. We all want to improve our parenting so our kids will turn into the best versions of themselves (and continue growing for the rest of their lives). This month I’ll show how taking care of ourselves helps us take better care of our kids. When we know our strengths and weaknesses, we can improve our interactions with others. I’d call that a win for everyone!
The End of My Rope
“Mom, I’m hungry. When can we eat?” Sarah tugged on my sleeve.
I grunted a non-reply and tried to make up my mind. Eat something expensive in the airport or find a place to eat once we had our rental car and headed towards my brother-in-law’s home.
I looked at the menu posted in a restaurant window and sighed. The prices taunted my pocketbook like the aroma of the warm food teased my nostrils. With three of us to feed, hospital bills piling higher than my knees, and unexpected expenses for this trip, I couldn’t spend money for us to eat at an airport restaurant.
“Mom, I’m hungry, too,” Laura joined in.
“We can’t eat here. It’s too expensive,” I snapped. “We’ll just have to eat at Taco Bell once we get on the road.”
“Do you know where it is?” Sarah wanted to know.
“No, but I’ll find one.” The hard, unkind voice I heard startled me. Then it made me mad. I jerked my suitcase handle and demanded, “Grab your suitcases and let’s get a move on.” I practically sprinted down the terminal towards the rental car area, scarcely looking behind to make sure Laura and Sarah followed me.
And then I felt even worse. What kind of parent marches off and almost leaves their eight and nine-year-old kids behind? And that made me madder. I slowed my pace until they caught up and then admonished them for falling behind before marching off again.
Circumstances Make Us Ugly
Cancer made me mad. Traveling on an empty stomach made me mad. Worrying about Pedro’s health and how to pay for everything made me mad. I glanced back to see if the girls still followed me. They did. Tearfully.
Not my finest parenting moment. I had ruined a joyous occasion—they hadn’t seen their daddy for a month. Pedro had circled the drain for weeks, but God stepped in with a mighty miracle and he was on the mend.
For the first time in my life, I wished I could have a do-over as a parent. And then I realized that I could—after all, I WAS the parent.
“I’m sorry, girls,” I said. “I’m hungry and grumpy and not being very nice. Can we have a do-over?”
They both nodded, shocked. I read confusion on their faces. I tried to elaborate. “You know, a mulligan. A do-over?” Their sweet faces seemed frozen and stiff. Perhaps they wondered if I’d gone around the bend.
“Let’s pretend we just arrived at the airport,” I explained. “We’ll do this whole scene over again.”
Their mouths closed, and they looked around in bewilderment.
“All right,” I enthused (I sounded fake to my own ears but hoped it would work). “We’ve made it to San Francisco and in less than two hours you’ll get to see Daddy!”
They smiled at me quizzically. I kept on, determined to do this horrible scene over.
“Who needs food?”
We all raised our hands. “Ok, let’s get our rental car and find a Taco Bell.”
“Will it have a talking trash can?” Sarah wondered. Her question made my smile genuine.
“Let’s find out!”
Five Hacks for Using a Mulligan
Asking for a do-over or a mulligan means we suffer from the common curse—humanity. We all make mistakes and need second chances. When we humbly ask for a do-over from our children, we teach them the power of grace and second chances.
These hacks will help you identify when you need to ask for a do-over and how to extend the same grace to family members.
1. Mulligan or Do-Over—You Decide
Decide as a family what you’d like to call second chances in your family. You could read David Puckett’s book Mr. DeVore’s Do-Over to your family as a springboard for the concept. If you like the word ‘do-over’ better, use that term.
If the word ‘mulligan’ makes your kids giggle and your golf-loving spouse remember the concept, use it!
Call it a ‘Take Two’ if you want. Watch bloopers or outtakes of scenes actors had to do over (and over) to get it right Here’s a family-friendly link to bloopers from Monsters, Inc. Whatever you do, make sure you explain to everyone in the family the concept of calling for a second chance. It will take practice for everyone to remember to ask and receive.
2. When to Use a Do-Over
Only the people involved in a scene really know when they’ve messed up or think they can do better. But if you don’t think about when to use a do-over, you may miss your opportunity. Brainstorm a list of events where a do-over would have been nice or probably changed the outcomes of a situation.
Prime mulligan times in my life include any time I’m hungry or tired. I get hangry and don’t even realize it. This little bit of self-awareness has helped me modulate my tone and reactions. And if I fail at that, I know I can always ask for a mulligan.
3. Own Up to Your Part
It doesn’t matter who got off on the wrong foot, it takes both action and reaction to cause a tense situation. Your kids won’t think you’re weak if you confess to grumpiness, anger, tiredness, or discouragement. Honesty about your feelings will model emotional awareness to your children.
What you do with your bad mood will help your child understand that we can overcome bad moods.
Start by stating your part. “I’m sorry. This conversation isn’t turning out the way I want it to. I feel ______ and I want to do better. Can we have a do-over?”
4. Relationships, Like Sports, Take Practice
Whether you play golf, run, do aerobics, or play tennis, you’ve probably realized that if you want to improve, you have to practice.
I suffer from perfectionism and hate to admit when I’m wrong. But each time I admit my mistakes and ask for a do-over, I build neural pathways that will make it a little easier to do the next time.
5. Accept a Do-Over Even if You Don’t Feel Like it
I confess, when someone asks ME for a do-over, I don’t always jump at the chance. My angry feelings make me feel justified in my behavior. The other person’s behavior may confirm what I already thought about that person, and I may not want to change my opinion. I don’t know if everyone feels this way, or if it’s just me.
But I have to remember that Jesus told his followers that since they have received freely, they must give freely (Matthew 10:8). God offers us countless mulligans and do-overs, and if we want to follow in his footsteps, we need to cultivate a willingness to do the same.Five hacks for using the mighty power of the do-over with your kids. #parenting #doover #mulligan #selfcare Click To Tweet
Do-Overs Will Help You Parent Through the Teen Years
Years later, I asked Laura and Sarah if they remembered this incident. They didn’t. But I did. I used the do-over numerous times during the surly stages of their teen years. The whole do-over system helped me discover that whiney voices and petulant pouting triggered a negative reaction in me.
As much as I’d like to report that I parented perfectly or that I never snapped at my kids again, I can’t. I did discover a powerful tool to extend and receive grace, though. And you can, too.