What This Is Like from a Parent’s Perspective


You know that children are young, and that many experiences are new or may cause them to be worried.

But when they refuse to do things because of their worry… 

…When they cling to your side when you drop them off at school…

…Or when they tell you that they’d rather skip soccer practice because they don’t want to face their coach, or their teammates…

You want to teach them how to face difficult things in life. But every time you encourage them, they only resist more.


What This Is Like From a Child’s Perspective


When kids (and adults!) face situations that believe they can’t handle, they feel out of control.

And when they feel out of control, they don’t listen to logic. They don’t want to hear all of the reasons “they’ll be fine” if they don’t feel they’ll be fine.

So it feels safer to cling to a parent’s jacket than to face something that makes them uncomfortable.

And it feels safer to skip a practice than to be thrown in a situation that they feel they don’t know how to handle.

They don’t want someone to tell them to calm down when they don’t know HOW to calm down in that moment.



How It Usually Goes When

Kids Are Worried About Something


Scenario: Tanner is going to his third session at a center that helps him learn to read. His mom tells him that it’s time to get out of the car, but he refuses.

Mom: Tanner, you have to go in now!

Tanner: I’m not going.

Mom (frustrated): Why??

Tanner: I’m just not!

Mom: You did fine last time. I don’t understand what the problem is!

Tanner: I don’t like it in there. I want to stay here.

Mom: I’m sorry, Tanner. You have to do things you don’t want to do.

Tanner (doesn’t say anything.)

Mom: Tanner, we paid for this. And you need help with reading.

Tanner (whining): I’ll do better by myself. I’ll practice more.

Mom: Tanner, that’s not how it works. You need help. And the people in there are nice. You need to GO.

Tanner (refuses to move).

Mom feels completely helpless and does not know how to get her son to go.


How We Can Help Children Deal With Worry

by Addressing Problems Proactively


Scenario: Tanner is going to his third session at a center that helps him learn to read. His mom tells him that it’s time to get out of the car, but he refuses.

Since Tanner’s mom feels helpless in the moment when situations like this occur, she talks to Tanner BEFORE the next time he has to go to his session. When they’re already feeling connected after playing together, she brings up the topic.


Mom: Tanner, you really don’t like going to that reading place, do you?

Tanner: No.

Mom: Do you know why?

Tanner: No.

Mom: Is it the teachers?

Tanner: No.

Mom: Is it having to read when you don’t like it?

Tanner: Yeah. I’m afraid the other kids there will think I’m dumb. And laugh like kids in my class do.


[expand title=”CALM”]

Tanner’s mom is immediately upset by how the other kids treat Tanner. She’s tempted to focus on her own Yuck and immediately reassure Tanner. Instead, she remains calm so that her worry doesn’t make Tanner worry more.

If she were having this conversation right when Tanner had to be in class, she would not be able to stay calm. Instead, she would focus on fixing the solution quickly so Tanner could get to class… which would likely increase Tanner’s nerves and make him resist more. [/expand]


Mom: Ahh. OK. Thanks for telling me that.

Tanner (doesn’t say anything).

Mom: It doesn’t feel good to be laughed at. (Pauses.) That happened to me a few times and it felt so awful. My face got hot and I wished I could crawl in a hole.


[expand title=”CONNECT”]

Instead of only focusing on her perspective that Tanner is overreacting because the other kids in the class are also struggling so they won’t make fun of him, Tanner’s mom reminds herself to see the situation from Tanner’s perspective. 

If she were handling this situation when there was a pressure to get to Tanner to his session on time, she would have a hard time seeing Tanner’s point of view. [/expand]



Tanner: Yeah.

Mom: Well I’m pretty sure those kids won’t laugh at you. They also sometimes have a hard time reading, so they know how you feel. BUT…

Tanner (looks up).

Mom: What could you do if they DO  laugh at you?

Tanner: I’m not sure.

Mom: Can I make a suggestion?

Tanner: I guess.

Mom: OK… but you tell me if you think you need to change it to make it work for you?

Tanner: OK.

Mom: When kids make fun of me, I laugh too.

Tanner: Huh?

Mom: Yeah… I feel like if I’m laughing too they’re not “winning” over me. It makes me feel less bad. 

Tanner: Really?

Mom: Yeah.

Tanner: I’m afraid I wouldn’t be able to laugh.

Mom: Fair enough. What would work better for you? Because Tanner… You do have to go to class. 


[expand title=”CORRECT”]

Tanner’s mom is firm in setting her boundary. At the same time, she focuses on helping Tanner find a way to meet that boundary.

Because she is handling the situation proactively and is not in Yuck, she can be both firm and respectful of Tanner’s feelings at the same time. [/expand]


Tanner: I know. Maybe I need to think of something else that’s funny. And then I could laugh.

Mom: Oh yeah, like the joke about the zebra snot?

Tanner (laughs): Yeah.

Mom: OK. Let’s see how that goes. 

Tanner: OK.

Mom: But… What happens if you tell me you don’t want to get out of the car when we get there?

Tanner: You can remind me of the zebra joke. And maybe tell me one more in the car just so I have a new one?

Mom: OK. I will do that. And then you get out. 

Tanner: Yeah.

Mom: Got it. But if that doesn’t work, we’re going to keep talking about it and working on a solution.

Tanner (rolls his eyes): Yeah. I know.

Mom (hugs Tanner): That zebra joke is pretty good.



Why Proactive Strategies Work


  • When situations are dealt with in between times of Yuck, Yuck is no longer an obstacle.  Without Yuck, parents stay calmer and children are less likely to be disrespectful or resistant to solutions.


  • When parents can truly listen to and connect with their children, they can identify the real reason that kids aren’t doing what they’re supposed to do. And once they know the reason, they can find a solution for that reason. 


  • Joint problem solving requires children to have a say in the plan and the consequence if the plan isn’t followed. When children have this type of control, they are more invested in making the plan work.