What This Is Like from a Parent’s Perspective
There are so many times during a day when you want to do something, but you can’t.
You want to sit and relax, but you have to clean the kitchen. You want to get some work done, but your kids keep interrupting you.
So when you ask your kids do to something they don’t want to do and they resist…
… When you ask them to clean up and they refuse
… When you ask them to leave their friend’s house and they whine and complain
You have very little patience. After all, they can’t always get their way, and they need to do the things they don’t want to do.
What This Is Like From a Child’s Perspective
All day long, kids are asked to do things that are hard for them to do. They have to sit still, be quiet, be patient, be “good.”
Acting that way does not come naturally to them, and eventually, putting all of their energy into being “good” becomes too much.
… So they’re asked to clean up and their Yuck comes in the form of refusing to listen
…Or they’re asked to leave their friend’s house and they can’t hide their disappointment so they whine and complain
They’re doing what comes naturally to their immature brains, and they don’t know what else to do… so they keep doing the same thing.
How It Usually Goes When
We Ask Kids To Do Something And They Resist
Scenario: Gina and her brother Colin are playing together when Gina starts telling Colin that his ideas are dumb. Gina’s mom asks her to speak more nicely to her brother, and she ignores her mother.
Mom: Gina! What are you doing? I just asked you to be nicer to your brother.
Gina: No! His ideas are stupid!
Mom: Gina! We don’t talk to each other like that in this family.
Gina (becomes sarcastic): I do.
Mom: Gina! That attitude is unacceptable.
Gina (smirks at her mom).
Mom: Go to your room. Get out of here if you’re going to talk like that.
Mom: I will take you there myself!
Mom picks Gina up and starts to carry her away, kicking and screaming.
How We Can Reduce Likelihood of Resistance
by Addressing Problems Proactively
Scenario: Gina and her brother Colin are playing together when Gina starts telling Colin that his ideas are dumb. Gina’s mom asks her to speak more nicely to her brother, and she starts yelling and carrying on.
Since Gina’s mom knows that Gina often becomes defiant when she is asked to be nice to her brother, her mother talks to her about it BEFORE the next time it happens… Once she and Gina are feeling pretty connected, Gina’s mom brings it up with her.
Mom: Gina, sometimes I ask you to treat your brother differently, and that seems hard for you to hear.
Gina (doesn’t say anything).
Mom: Do you get mad at me when I ask you to be nicer?
Mom: Why do you get mad?
Gina: Because Colin is so annoying.
Gina’s mom is frustrated that Gina is putting all of the blame on Colin. But she knows that pointing that out will only make Gina shut down and she won’t learn to act differently in the future. Gina’s mom reminds herself to stay calm.
If she were addressing this behavior in the moment, she would not be able to stay calm. Instead, she would focus on Gina’s irrational behavior and get more upset. [/expand]
Mom: Oh yeah? How so?
Gina: When we’re playing together, he comes up with dumb ideas.
Mom: So you want to do things a certain way, and he wants to do it another.
Gina’s mom wants to remind her that Colin is 3 years younger than she is… But instead she tries to see the situation from Gina’s perspective.
If she were handling this situation in the moment, she would have a hard time seeing Gina’s point of view. [/expand]
Gina: Yeah, and my way is better.
Mom: You do have some good ideas. I love when you want to make a whole play and you come up with the lines and even the actions that people should do.
Mom: In our house, Gina, we don’t call each other dumb. So we need to figure out a solution here…. Because you don’t like your brother’s ideas and we don’t call each other dumb.
Gina’s mom is clear about her boundary. At the same time, she respects Gina’s perspective and focuses on finding solutions.
Because she is handling the situation proactively and is not in Yuck, she can be both firm and respectful of Gina at the same time. [/expand]
Gina (doesn’t say anything).
Mom: What do you think you can do next time your brother suggests something you don’t like? Because it’s OK to have your opinion.
Gina: I’m not sure.
Mom: How about, ‘Can I finish my idea? And then we’ll try yours?’
Gina: But I don’t want to try his!
Mom: OK. I understand that. What is the solution?
Gina: Can YOU just do his ideas with him?
Mom: If I’m not busy, sure… I can do that.
Gina: Thank you.
Mom: So instead of telling him his ideas are dumb, what would you say?
Gina: I’ll tell him that I’ll get you so you can do his idea with him.
Mom: Let’s try that. But if it doesn’t work, we’re going to talk again, OK? In this house, we are respectful to each other and we’re going to keep looking for ways to make that happen.
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.