Usually, when a child isn’t behaving or feeling the way we want them to, it’s related to

our lack of influence, their missing tools, or their Yuck.

Here are the questions to ask yourself when your child isn’t listening:


1. Are their biological needs accounts low?
Are they hungry, tired, sick, under-or over-stimulated?

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?

Whether they do or not… you can (calmly) repeat the boundary.
If they don’t know that you mean what you say, they’ll continue to push the boundary and you will likely have to 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
Handling transitions
Problem solving
Controlling impulses
Regulating emotions?

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

If so… they’re too deep in Yuck to behave positively. Try to meet that need and/or let them travel the Yuck curve.

An Example


Scenario: Kristy asks her son Mark to clean up the milk he’d left on the table. Mark is in the other room looking for a book that he’d lost, and ignores his mom. 

How Mark’s mom might answer these questions

1. Are his biological needs accounts low?
No, Mark is not tired or hungry. He’s not sick. He’s engaged in something else, so he’s not likely seeking stimulation.

2. Does Mark know that I mean what I say?
No. Often when I ask Mark to do something and he doesn’t do it, eventually I just do it myself. I may have to be more firm this time and let him travel the Yuck curve.

3. Does Mark have the tools to do what he’s supposed to do?
In this case, wiping up the milk might be boring.
More likely, he doesn’t know how to transition from looking for his book to doing what I ask.

4. Is Mark in Yuck?
Yes. He’s upset that he can’t find his assignment. And now I’m asking him to do something he doesn’t feel like doing.



Putting it all together

What’s causing the negative behavior:
Mark’s in Yuck
because he lost his book. He’s focused on finding it so he feels better. He’s not able to easily transition from looking for his assignment to doing what I ask him to do.

What to do:
I can help him create closure (a transition tool)
by helping him find his book. Then I can remind him to clean up the milk.
If he resists, I could just be super firm and then let him travel the curve. OR I could make my request a deposit by making it more stimulating. I could lightheartedly throw him a wet paper towel and dare him to catch it so that he feels more connected and stimulated.

What it might look like: The words 

Mom: Hey Mark, I’ll try to help you find that assignment. After that, I’d like you to clean up the milk.

Mark: I don’t want to.


Mom: I know. You were right in the middle of looking for your book. So let’s find that book together first. 

After book is found…


Mom: K, it’s time for that milk cleanup. I’m going to throw you the paper towel from across the room. How bad will my throw be? Will you be able to catch it?

If Mark still doesn’t clean up, Mark’s mom can restate her boundary firmly. When Mark gets upset, she can stay calm and let him travel the curve

You will not be able to effectively ask (and answer) these questions when you’re in Yuck!