What This Is Like from a Parent’s Perspective

 

Parenting is all about sacrifice. Every day we do things that we don’t want to do.

So when we ask children to do things they don’t want to do and they complain or refuse to do it…

When we ask them to bring their plate to the table and they whine about it…

When they’re afraid of going to a new class and hide behind you for the entire class (that you paid for!)…

When you want them to try a new skill and they flat-out refuse…

It can be exasperating! After all, life is full of challenges and obstacles, and they need to learn how to handle that. But you’re not sure how to teach them.

 

What This Is Like from a Child’s Perspective

 

Children don’t usually want to frustrate their parents. They don’t like when their parents get upset or frustrated with them.

But sometimes their emotions are so overwhelming that they don’t know how to respond “maturely.”

So when they’re asked to bring the plate to the table, they whine instead of saying, “I wish I didn’t have to.”

When they’re afraid of going to a new class, they don’t know how to fight through the fear.

When they’re asked to try something new, they are focused more on their feelings than doing the right (hard) thing. 

They don’t know how to get out of their own Yuck… And other people’s upset and frustration doesn’t motivate them more.

 

 

How It Usually Goes When

A Child Is Asked To Do Something They Don’t Want To Do

 

Scenario:

Donovan’s mom has taken him to a new tae kwon do class to help build his self-esteem. However, when they get to the class Donovan is too nervous and refuses to get out of the car.

 

Mom: Donovan, you HAVE to go in! We paid for this class!

Donovan doesn’t say anything. He doesn’t move.

Mom: Donovan, this is crazy. You’re 8 years old now. You should be able to handle this.

Donovan: I don’t want to!

Mom: You can DO THIS! You have to. How are you going to be able to handle life if you can’t face your fears?

Donovan: I’m NOT going.

Mom: Oh yes you are! (She starts to worry because she knows she can’t pick Donovan up and carry him into class.)

Donovan: You can’t make me.

Mom (trying to think of any leverage she has): Maybe not, but I can tell you that you can’t go to your friend’s birthday party this weekend!

Donovan: That’s not FAIR!

Mom: Well it’s not fair that I paid for this class and you’re not going in!

Donovan starts to kick the back of the seat in front of him. He still doesn’t move.

Mom: Donovan! Enough!

Donovan: This class is stupid and I’m NOT going!

Mom feels helpless to get Donovan to go into the class. And now she regrets saying that Donovan can’t go to the party this weekend. 

 

 

 

How It Could Go Better When 

A Child Is Asked To Do Something They Don’t Want To Do

 

Scenario:

Donovan’s mom has taken him to a new tae kwon do class to help build his self-esteem. However, when they get to the class Donovan is too nervous and refuses to get out of the car.

Note: The success of this script depends on Donovan’s mom proactively identifying and practicing tools for handling discomfort.

 

Mom: Donovan, you HAVE to go in. We paid for this class!

Donovan doesn’t say anything. He doesn’t move.

Mom (slows down her speech and speaks more softly): Donovan. This is a new place. You’ve never been here before.

 

CALM

Donovan’s mom is frustrated by the fact that Donovan is refusing to go inside. She also knows that forcing him to go inside will not work when he is flooded with emotion.

Instead, she focuses on staying calm herself so Donovan can feel safe enough to get out of Yuck.

 

Donovan doesn’t say anything. He doesn’t move.

Mom: Are you nervous about this class?

Donovan (quietly): Yeah.

Mom: You do know the teacher. We met him before. Ah, but you don’t know the other kids in the class.

Donovan: And I don’t know how the class is going to go. What if I can’t do something?

Mom: Ah yes, it can be scary to do new things — especially if you don’t know what could happen.

 

CONNECT

Donovan’s mom wants him to go inside. But she knows that he’ll only have the energy to fight his nerves when he feels heard and safe.

So she focuses on seeing the situation from Donovan’s perspective instead of focusing only on her own.

Donovan: Yeah.

Mom: Well, let’s talk about that. What would happen if you can’t do something?

Donovan: The kids would laugh at me.

Mom: You would NOT want that.

Donovan: No!

Mom: I wouldn’t either. (Pauses.) Well, I don’t think the kids will laugh. They’ve all been new too and they know what it feels like.

Donovan: But they might!

Mom: I hear you. OK. We ARE going into class. So let’s talk about how you’d handle it even if they DID laugh. I don’t think they will. But if they do, what could you do?

Donovan: I don’t know.

Mom: Do you remember what you practiced doing when you feel uncomfortable?

Donovan: Yeah. Counting backwards from 100 by 2’s.

Mom: Does that help?

Donovan: It gives me something else to focus on.

Mom: Could you do that if you feel uncomfortable?

Donovan: I guess. But what if I forget?

Mom: I’ll be sitting in the stands. Can you look at me? I’ll hold up my fingers to remind you?

 

CORRECT

Even as she is respecting his perspective, Donovan’s mom maintains a clear boundary. To build his tolerance, she knows she needs to expose him to uncomfortable things.

At the same time, she also focuses on giving Donovan tools to handle those uncomfortable things.

She is being firm while giving Donovan strategies for success.  

 

Donovan: Yeah, I guess so.

Mom: OK. We are going in now. Do you want me to come around to your side and walk with you, or would you rather walk alone?

Donovan: I’ll walk alone.

Mom: OK.

Donovan (slowly gets out of the car).

 

 

What is REQUIRED for In-the-Moment Parenting to Work

 

Though Donovan’s mom used the Calm, Connect, Correct strategy in the moment, proactive deposits will make all of the difference in how this situation will play out. 

If you want to give your child tools to be successful (so they can handle discomfort), remember: 

 

Depositing into CALM

You will only be able to stay calm when

a.) your own biological or emotional “needs accounts” are met (otherwise you won’t have a reserve to draw from and you’ll immediately go into Yuck)

b.) you don’t have the expectation that your children will have the same priorities that you do

When you make sure your own needs are met and you set realistic expectations PROACTIVELY, you are more likely to be able to stay calm. 

 

Depositing into CONNECT

You will be able to connect if

a.) you respect that ALL behavior has a reason and

b.) you understand those reasons (in a case like this, that kids need to feel safe AND have tools to handle discomfort if you want them to do things they don’t want to do)

When you become comfortable with the reasons behind behavior PROACTIVELY, you will be able to connect more effectively. 

 

Depositing into CORRECT

You will be able to correct behavior by offering a tool if

a.) You have demonstrated consistently in the past that you mean what you say when you set a boundary like “We are going into the class.”

b.) You have made enough deposits into your kids’ emotional needs that setting a boundary doesn’t put them immediately into Yuck.

When you demonstrate that you mean what you say and when you make deposits into your kids’ emotional needs PROACTIVELY, you  will be able to correct behavior more effectively.