Stephen has been on the same soccer team for a few years. There is an award ceremony at the end of each season, but Stephen is refusing to go. 


  • When Stephen’s mom tries to insist that he go to the ceremony, he becomes defensive. The conversation goes much better when she chooses to listen instead of arguing. 
  • Stephen’s mom stays firm with the boundary (Stephen can’t avoid the ceremony), but she approaches him as someone who’s on his side rather than against him. 
  • When Stephen insists that nothing is going to help him get through the ceremony, his mom does not keep pushing. She realizes that when he’s in that place of Yuck, he won’t be able to solve problems… and that it’s best to address the issue again later.

Mom: Stephen, you have to go to the award ceremony. 

Stephen: No I don’t.

Mom: Your coach specifically asked people to be there unless there’s a really good reason not to be there. And you don’t have a good reason.

Stephen: But they’re dumb.

Mom (starts to contradict him, but then she takes a deep breath and takes another approach instead): Oh yeah? Why do you think they’re dumb?

Stephen: The same kids get awards all the time.

Mom: OK. But you’re one of those kids that usually gets an award.

Stephen: I know.

Mom (stays silent for a few moments, and then speaks slowly): You don’t like getting those awards?

Stephen: No.

Mom: Why not?

Stephen: I don’t like getting up in front of people.

Mom: OK. (Makes sure her tone is curious instead of judgmental): Can I ask you a question though?

Stephen: What?

Mom: Don’t you play soccer in front of people all the time though?

Stephen: Yeah, but that’s different.

Mom: How so?

Stephen: People aren’t watching just me. They’re watching the whole team.

Mom: OK. I can see the difference.

Stephen: Yeah.

Mom: I’ll tell you what… Staying home isn’t an option…

Stephen interrupts with a groan. 

Mom: But… why don’t we think of a way to help you get through those feelings, in case you do win an award?

Stephen: I don’t know how to do that.

Mom: Can I give you a suggestion?

Stephen: I guess.

Mom: Well, I’ll tell you what I would do. I’d sing a song in my head and focus on that instead of the fact that people might be looking at me. But I realize that might not work for you.

Stephen: I’m afraid I’d trip or something.

Mom: OK, what might work for you?

Stephen: I don’t know.

Mom: Well, we have two more days to think about this. You don’t have to come up with a solution now… and I’m happy to keep talking this through with you.

Stephen: Ugh. Fine. Let’s talk about it later then.

Mom: OK.




This situation would not have gone the same way if Stephen’s mom did not…

  • Know how to handle her own Yuck (so that she didn’t immediately get triggered by Stephen’s “defiance”) 
  • Understand how to respond to someone with anxiety so that she knew that her son didn’t need arguments… he needed her support (which didn’t require her to change her boundary). 
  • Deposit into her relationship with her son so that she can serve as a “safe” person rather than as someone who puts her son deeper into Yuck when she tries to help.