Have you ever been caught off guard when your daughter,
stepdaughter, or granddaughter is suddenly paralyzed to move
forward because she’s afraid of some horrible outcome?

For example, she contracts a huge belly ache that will prevent her
from going to school on the day that she has to give an oral
presentation.  Or, she won’t tell her friend that her feelings have been
hurt because she might lose her as a friend forever. Or, she won’t play
soccer on Saturday because at practice her teammates were teasing
her about her running style.

I’d like to share a little verbal comeback that helps diffuse the
potential magnitude of the outcome in these types of stressful (and
dramatic) situations. Simply offer, “What’s the worst that could
happen?”  And then, no matter what her response is, say “And then
what would you do?”  After the next statement of doom, say again,
“And then what?”  Play out the situation until some of the worst fears
have been expressed and addressed.  If nothing else, this technique
helps girls take a highly charged situation back down to the realm of
normal, healthy fears.

Let’s play out one of the above situations.  Here comes Dana on
Wednesday morning, clutching her stomach and saying she can’t go to
school today.  You happen to know she is supposed to demonstrate
her science experiment today.

Mom: Are you worried about your science presentation today? 
Sometimes when I’m worried I feel it in my stomach.

Dana: No, mom, my stomach really hurts.

Mom: Let’s just talk about the presentation for a minute.  What’s the
worst that could happen during your demonstration?

Dana: I’d forget what I was going to say and make a total fool of

Mom: And then what would you do?

Dana: I’d want to crawl under my desk.

Mom: But what do you think you’d really do?

Dana:  I’d look at my note cards and there’d be a huge silence.

Mom:  (focusing on facts) I bet it helps to have those note cards. 
What would you do after you looked at them?

Dana:  Continue, but everyone would be looking at me.

Mom: And then what?

Dana: Well, I could probably just finish from there.  It’s a short

Mom:  Sounds like you have a good backup plan with those note cards.

Dana: Yeah.  I just don’t like it when I have a big pause in my
demonstration.  I guess I would have everyone’s attention though.

Does Dana go to school that day?  I don’t know, that part’s up to you! 
I would give my daughter the encouragement to get going.

I’ve tried this “worst that can happen” technique from time to time
with our kids, with pretty good results.  If your young lady has a sense
of humor, you can get some pretty funny “worsts” going on.

By the way, you might wonder if I know that these strategies can
backfire.  Your conversation might take a nose dive with several “I
don’t knows,” or the “worst” might be worse than the original dilemma. 

But backfiring is probably the worst that could happen. And then what? 
Try again.

Feel free to share some backfires and successes with us all.

Mama J (Diane Fromme) is a writer, parent, and stepparent located in
Northern Colorado.  For more information on her stepparenting book,
go to


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