I don’t know where I learned it, but I’ve kept it in my back pocket for years now, and I pull it out more than any other phrase.
Part of the reason I use this phrase so often is because I don’t just want my kids to know that they did something wrong. I want them to plan for how they can respond differently when they are in a similar situation and practice doing the right thing.
I was reminded of the importance of this when reading The Christian Parenting Handbook.
“Sometimes parents assume that children know what the right thing is. After all, these moms and dads have been saying the same thing over and over again. But hearing it in their ears isn’t the same as embracing it in their hearts. Life requires practice, and good practice builds healthy patterns.
Children need to practice doing what’s right, not just receive correction for doing something wrong” (Dr. Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller).
In our home, try that again is used most often when we need to practice speaking in right tones — asking for something, responding to someone, or even in normal conversations!
But try that again is also used in every day circumstances, whenever an offense occurs. I want to help my children think through what a better response is and then have an opportunity to practice right behavior.
Many times, try that again requires that I first ask a few questions and remind my children of what we have been learning.
One example could be:
“That response sounded very rude and we’ve been learning from the Bible that love is not rude. How could you say that differently? That’s right, let’s try that again.”
There are other times when try that again is reminder enough and little instruction is needed. This is usually when the kids demand something or respond with sassiness or gruffness.
Me: Kids, come here, please!
Kids: “Whaaaat?!” (insert lots of sass)
Me: “Try that again”
Kids: “Coming, Mom.”
Can you hear it?
We have to be careful, though, not to just use this phrase willy-nilly. When using the phrase try that again, I have to make sure that I have actually instructed the kids on a right response.
It’s not okay for me to demand for them to try again when they don’t know what the proper response is! Expecting that only sets them up for frustration and failure.
In our home, that might mean I gently remind the kids of something we’ve been learning or reading in the Word or talking about together. Other times, it might mean using a few guiding questions like:
How could you do that differently?
What would a more loving/respectful/honoring response be?
Let’s try that again.
It might also mean giving further instruction:
When you respond with that tone of voice (and usually I mimick their response), you sound sassy (rude, disrespectful, whiny, etc.). A better response when I tell you to come talk to me is, “Okay, Mom.” Let’s practice. I’ll call you again, and you try responding like this: _______.
Usually we make a game of the practice and the bad attitudes disappear in the fun of learning.
I can’t say I get this right all the time. Far too many times it’s not my kids who need to try that again, it’s me. Once again I’m given the opportunity to admit I was wrong and accept the grace to try again.
Question for You: Do you allow do-overs in your home? How do you give your kids a chance to practice right behavior?