Once you look behind the behaviour, things change pretty quickly.
“Stubborn” is a judgment like “lazy”, “greedy”, “stupid” or a “drama queen”. And nothing scares the bejezus more out of a parent than thinking that their child has a character flaw.
The great thing though is that these character traits aren’t really there… they only exist in our heads. You can’t actually ‘see’ them, it’s your subjective perception.
Did you know that stubbornness is said to be the dogged determination not to change one’s attitude or position on something?
When we let go of judgments what we actually see are STRENGTHs.
So, I prefer to think of stubborn child as a child who is insistent, persistent, persevering and knows what they want. And who doesn’t want THAT for their child?
These children rely on their inner guidance. In other words, these children cannot be coaxed or cajoled– they are inwardly motivated.
So, what do you do when your child refuses to budge?
You start with using “Say What You See®” of course. The first step in the coaching model I use and teach.
SAY WHAT YOU SEE gets you out of your head into the moment, so you can see what actually is happening.
Let’s look at a typical situation:
You’ve told your child to put on their shoes it’s time to go to the park, they look at you and refuse to move from the sofa.
SAY WHAT YOU SEE (SWYS) would sound like this:
SWYS: “You looked at me, and you are not moving from the sofa.”
When you say what you see without telling your child off, or sounding annoyed or like your child has done something wrong, you’ll be amazed that your child will be compelled to reply.
Your child will give you more information. They might say “I don’t want to go to the park, I always have to go out. I want to stay at home.”
What they are telling you is something that actually matters to them. So, if your child says she’s not going to the park, you can go further into SWYS here.
So, you could say, “You don’t want to go to outside today. I bet you wish you could make the decisions for once. You must feel like you’re always being told what to do. You want to stay at home, you’re a homebody!”
Can you feel the difference? You’re starting to step onto your child’s side right now. And when you do, you get to see your child’s experience. Remember that acknowledging how your child sees something and how they feel about it is not the same as agreeing. It’s understanding why their wants makes sense to them.
When your child feels unheard, they feel like you’re dismissing their wants and needs. So, in a nutshell, they think you are telling them how they feel is wrong and at a deeper level, that who they are is wrong.
Has your child ever told you that “You don’t listen!” If they could articulate it, what they really mean is that they want you to validate what they want, they want to know that what they want matters to you, even if they can’t have it. This is crucial, because what we want and consider important is an expression of who we are.
The first Premise of Language of Listening® explains why:
Everything we do and say is a communication; and we must continue to communicate until we are heard.
And nothing speaks to a child more quickly than using Say What You See®. It transforms what often feels like a daily battle of wills, into one of connection and willing cooperation.
Here’s the key to willing cooperation:
Say what the child wants before offering a CAN DO.
Say What You See® is the step of connection, validation and understanding, it’s what creates connection and opens the way for cooperation. Your child feels heard and is the primed to want to listen to you.
Let’s go back to the situation above:
SWYS:” You looked at me, and you are not moving from the sofa.”
Child:”I don’t want to go to the park, I always have to go out. I want to stay at home.”
SWYS:“You want to stay home.You don’t want to go to outside today. I bet you wish you could make the decisions for once.”
Child:“Yes! I want to decide what to do.”
SWYS:“It sounds like you’re feeling bossed around. No wonder you don’t want to go!”
CAN DO:“Hmm. You want to decide what we do, we have to go to the park, and you want to stay at home. That is a problem! Hmm. Must be something you can do to get ready and feel part of making the decisions?”
Remember, the purpose of offering a CAN DO within your boundary, is to is to help your child find a way to meet their own need for experience, power or connection in ways you DO LIKE. For more examples of how to support your child to get their needs met in ways you DO LIKE check out my printables.
When kids are heard and know that what they want and how they feel matters to you, their capacity to listen, and go into problem-solving mode will be evident. CAN DOs helps you gain willing cooperation and helps your child gain problem-solving skills.
When you finish by pointing out your child’s STRENGTHs you connect your child to their inner guidance.
STRENGTHs“You found a way to make it work, you’re a problem-solver. You know exactly what you want to do when we get to the park, you even want to choose where we sit to have our picnic. You like making decisions.”
Your child’s behaviour is guided by her STRENGTHs, (the ones you just pointed out to her) This is what impacts her future behaviour. So, when she sees herself in this way, she will go and show you all the other ways she has that strength.
SO, next time that thought of “stubborn” pops into your head, pause a moment and remind yourself, “That’s my child showing me that they have not been heard yet.”