One of my favorite things about parenting is the challenge to communicate big ideas to a young mind. It isn’t just their limited vocabulary that requires you to get creative.
I just wrote a children’s book based on an experience with my son where using a super hero metaphor proved surprisingly effective. As you can see in the cover image above, it’s called Grey and the Good Attitude Cape.
Let me tell you the full story. Recently, I was in an exceptionally rough season of life with a lot of major transitions. My son and I were both feeling the effects. New apartment, new job, new schedule.
These life events are challenging for any family, and as a single parent, I was incredibly overwhelmed. My son was experiencing the stress of an inconsistent schedule between mommy’s house, helpful friend’s houses, and daddy’s house, and most of his toys were still in boxes.
Neither of us were sleeping well and we were both disappointed about not getting enough quality time together. The (at the time) three year old and his mommy were cranky.
I was floundering, trying to find a way to not only set a good example, despite exhaustion, but to also explain in words to a three year old that you can choose to be nice and thankful, even when things are hard.
I wanted to communicate that having a positive attitude is a choice. It doesn’t mean that you pretend you’re not disappointed or tired. It doesn’t mean that wanting more time to play with mommy is a bad thing.
It just means, that even when you can’t have what you want or need, you can still choose to use nice words when you ask for more milk or help with your shoes.
And just as important, when you realize you’re not having a good attitude, you can stop and change it. As I say in the book, “it takes strength to be kind even when you’re frustrated.”
My son, Grey, had recently redirected his attention from trucks to super heroes. And in a moment of combined frustration and divine inspiration, it came to me. “Grey, do you know what your super power could be?” I had his full attention.
“Your super power could be choosing to have a good attitude! When you realize you’re having a bad attitude, you can just put on your cape and choose to cooperate!”
It was a little silly. But he was all in. We found a piece of cloth, made a cape and continued talking about how having a good attitude is choice. And even adults have to change their attitude sometimes.
I thought it might last a day and just be a short-lived, but still valuable moment. Instead, it really caught on. He didn’t forget about that special super power. And it continued to be a great way for me to encourage him to reconsider his interactions and that it’s okay to stop and change how you’re interacting with someone.
Those of you who read my previous post will hopefully get a kick out this. I recognize the irony. I promise, I am not obsessed with capes and super powers. I guess I just spend a lot of time with someone who can’t get enough of super heroes and it affects the illustrations that come to mind.
Let me say one last, crucial thing. I am not here suggesting this has transformed my son into a child with perfect behavior. The ‘good attitude cape’ is primarily a way to discuss the big idea that we can choose our attitude in the same way that you can choose to put on a piece of clothing. I expect this conversation and topic to continue to develop between us as he grows older.
Grey is not a flawless Good Attitude Super Hero. I’m not either. We’re both still learning to curb those instincts to complain. This is an area where I need (almost) as much growth as he does. I need to create new habits of not reacting with negative thoughts and attitudes too.
If you’re interested in purchasing the book, Grey and the Good Attitude Cape is currently available in a pay-what-you-can style as a PDF e-book, great for iPads and other mobile devices. If you’d like to know when it will be available on Kindle, Nook, iBooks and paperback, sign up to be notified.
What ideas and illustrations have you used as a parent, to explain abstract ideas to your children, especially in times of hardship?