Our family loves to play Four Square. My husband (Rob) and I both grew up playing the game. He learned it at the Boys Club and I learned it at church camp. For some odd reason, we never taught it to our kids when they were growing up, but it’s probably because I did not have many pleasant memories associated with the game (remember last week’s post where I confessed that I am not athletic?). At camp, I would spend 10 minutes waiting for my turn in the game, only to be eliminated within 2 seconds. You know those guys who were really, really good at dodgeball? They were the same guys who reigned as kings of Four Square. If no one could get them out in dodgeball, then who was I to even attempt to knock them out of the Four Square game?
In case you’ve never heard of Four Square, it’s a game with very few rules, requires a flat surface that can be marked off into four squares inside a larger square, and a rubber ball. And at least 4 willing participants. I say “willing” because oftentimes our grand kids have to be bribed into playing. There are just too many other fun things they would rather do and having a ball thrown at them by an intimidating grown-up just few feet away can be a little unnerving. Just before playing one day, our youngest granddaughter, Addie, asked, “How long do I have to play before we do a lemonade stand?” I replied that we don’t have any lemonade to do a lemonade stand and would not be able to have one today (or ever). She gave me the strangest look that implied, “What? We’re not going to have a lemonade stand?” Then another grandchild spoke up, “I think she means e-li-mi-na-tion…” Elimination… A lemonade stand… A real “aha!” moment for all of us. Addie turned “getting out” into something fun with her innocent interpretation of the rules. Words have power and “elimination” is not one of those “feel good” words in our vocabulary. But “a lemonade stand” conjures up images of sunny days, a shaded street, kids on bikes, and quarters collected in a little homemade box. Anyone who teaches, coaches or parents knows how hard it can be to employ language that encourages and doesn’t dissuade learners from engaging with the difficult tasks. Our jobs consist of a healthy dose of evaluating our students’ or child’s performance and giving feedback that inspires them to improve. Finding the right words can make all the difference!
Although Addie didn’t quite know the word “elimination”, her choice of words has been a reminder to me to be on the lookout for substitutions that inspire and promote positive imagery….. such as a lemonade stand!
Stephanie Parker lives in the Atlanta area with her husband Rob. They have two grown children and three grandchildren. For more information, go to www.LearnWithStephanie.com
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