Usually, when a child won’t stop arguing, it’s because they’re irritable from low being tired or hungry, they feel disrespected, or
and/or they feel out of control.
Here are the questions to ask yourself to identify the cause of any behavior:
1. Are their biological needs accounts low?
If so… that need must be addressed for behavior to change.
2. Do they know that you mean what you say?
Have you been consistent in the past?
Or do they know they can just move slowly and eventually you’ll give up on trying to get them to do something?
If you haven’t been consistent… in that moment, you’ll have to be firm and let them travel the Yuck curve.
3. Do they have the tools to do what they’re supposed to do?
Is this situation requiring them to use the tools that most kids lack:
…Handling monotony (staying focused)
Regulate emotions (including handling your stress about being late)?
If so… make a suggestion for this tool. If they’re not too deep in Yuck, this is all it will take.
4. Are they in Yuck?
Do they feel:
Out of control
How This Relates to Irrational Behavior
Scenario: Piper and her family have just spent an amazing day at a fall festival at a local farm. The whole day, Piper was laughing and clearly enjoying herself. At the end of the day, she complains to her parents that she didn’t have ANY fun.
How Piper’s parents might answer these questions
1. Are Piper’s biological needs accounts low?
Yes, she is likely exhausted from a full day.
2. Does Piper know that we mean what we say?
Since Piper’s parents aren’t enforcing a rule, this question isn’t relevant for them in this situation.
3. Does Piper have the tools to do what she’s supposed to do?
Piper doesn’t have the tools to act “mature” even when she’s tired. She’s also likely struggling with the transition from having fun all day to knowing that she has to go to school tomorrow.
4. Is Piper in Yuck?
Yes, Piper is probably tired and upset that the day is over. Instead of recognizing that or expressing that maturely, she’s acting out her Yuck. (And Yuck is never rational.)
Putting it all together
Piper’s parents identify what’s going on and what to do
What’s causing Piper’s irrational behavior:
Piper had a great day, but now it’s over. She’s probably exhausted from the day and disappointed that tomorrow she has to go back to school.
How they can address the situation:
Piper’s parents can recognize that her behavior is related to Yuck and not get triggered. Instead of trying to convince Piper that she had such a great day and that she should be happy, they can focus their energy on letting her release her Yuck instead of getting sucked in. They remind themselves that if they want to teach Piper to be grateful for what she received, they need to do that when she’s less tired and more open-minded.
What it might look like: The words
Piper: I did NOT have any fun today.
Piper: Really. The corn maze was OK, but I didn’t like the camel ride.
Mom (knowing that Piper really did have a good time on the camel): I’m sorry to hear that, kiddo.
Piper: Next year I do NOT want to ride on the camel.
Mom: OK. I will make note of that. Anything else you don’t want to do?
Piper: Yeah. The hay ride made me itchy.
Mom: OK. No hay ride. Is that it?
Piper: I guess.
Mom: OK, kiddo. I’ll try to remember next year.
Don’t forget: You will not be able to effectively ask (and answer) these questions when you’re in Yuck!