Oh my! It was moments like these that would trigger me. When my daughter was little, my every request was met by a big fat NO!
“Why does my daughter have to be so stubborn? Why does she always have to push my boundaries? Why can’t she be more like her brother? He just listens and gets on with it. Why oh, why does every request have to be a battle?” were the thoughts spinning round my head.
These thoughts left me feeling powerless. I was fed up battling every. single. time. It was exhausting.
I wonder if you can relate.
What I came to understand was it wasn’t my daughter’s NO! that would trigger me. It was the meaning I attached to that NO!
You see, the problem was that I only saw two options:
Give in to my child’s demands.
or threaten, bribe or punish for compliance.
No wonder it was exhausting. Either I had to give up what I wanted, or I had to fight to hold my ground. No wonder I was told to “Pick my battles.”
This may be hard to believe but…guess what!
That NO! it’s not defiance, or your child always wanting their way, or that you have a ‘strong-willed’ child on your hands.
That NO! is your child sharing their likes and don’t likes and their wants and wishes with you. (and that doesn’t mean you have to give it to them.)
The first premise in Language of Listening® is that children have to keep communicating till they feel heard. This is so important to understand as our usual responses typically escalate the situation.
Because when we look at that NO! as a challenge, what do most of us do?
We reply with things like:
Logic and reasoning. “Come on! You know you like bath time, once you’re in you’ll love it!”
Threats. “If you don’t listen right now! There’ll be no story time later/no screen time.”
Demands. “Come here right now! That behaviour is unacceptable.”
Judgments. “Now you’re just being silly, you can’t always have what you want.”
Shame/guilt “Now you’re making me sad, stop being so naughty, you know better than that.”
More than anything your child wants to feel heard and validated. (that doesn’t mean you have to change your boundary.) but can you see how our typical responses just don’t cut the mark.
If children HAVE TO keep communicating till they feel heard, we give our child no other option but to escalate their behaviour, (by shouting, hitting, kicking, tantruming, giving you counter reasons, digging their heals in.) all to show us and prove to us just how important to them what they want, or wish is.
And don’t we go about proving to our child just how important our boundary is? Funny isn’t it, how we mirror our child’s behaviour or is it our child mirroring ours?
If you find yourself thinking, “Why can’t my child just listen to me?” I bet your child is thinking the exact same thing.
And cue the battle of wills.
I want to share with you 3 powerful coaching tools to use when your child says NO! follow this and you’ll soon swap that No! for willing cooperation.
It all comes from Language of Listening® – the 3-part framework I use and teach.
1. Everything children do and say is a communication, and children must continue to communicate until they are heard. So, when a child isn’t listening and shouting NO! go immediately into saying what they want.
(Remember, acknowledging your child’s wants is not agreeing with them. You can still hold your boundary.)
The first in Language of Listening® is something we call Say What You See® The purpose of Say What You See® is validation. It gets your child heard and closes that communication loop. It also helps you understand your child’s perspective and it’s here where they start to open up to your guidance.
“You’re busy playing! You’re telling me you’re not finished yet.”
“You want to keep playing. The last thing you want to do is get wet, it’s hard to stop playing and come for a bath.”
“You want to keep watching T.V it’s hard to turn it off and come and sit at the table.”
The wonderful part here is that you’re not battling with your child, you’re on the same side, stepping into your child’s world for a moment and seeing what’s ‘right’ with their NO!
Often a child who feels validated and what they want matters to you, is then able to move on and cooperate with your wishes. and then supporting them to find solutions within your boundaries.
2. Support your child to find solutions within your boundaries.
Let’s take the bath time situation for an example:
It starts by asking myself a few questions and becoming clear on what my boundary is in this moment.
- Is it ok for my daughter to finish what she’s doing, or does she need a bath this minute?
- Does she need a bath or could a wash at the sink suffice for tonight?
- Can she carry on playing whilst having a bath?
What you want to happen is not right or wrong, we all have our own preferences. Being clear on our boundary and what we want helps us to see what our possibilities are to find solutions.
In Language of Listening®, we call this step CAN Dos. Literally what your child CAN DO that’s within your boundary. This helps you focus on finding solutions that work for everyone.
Here are a few examples:
“You want to keep playing, AND it’s bath time. You can bring your toys to the bathroom. That’s OK with me.”
Or you can turn the problem-solving over to your child like this:
“You’re telling me No! It looks like you’ve not finished building your Lego, and that’s important to you. AND it’s bath time. Must be something you CAN DO to finish up quickly and come for a bath?”
“You’re just a heap on the floor, the last thing you want is to get all wet and come for a bath! It feels so terrible. You wish bath time was over with. There must be something you CAN DO to get through bath time!
This acknowledges your child’s needs and wants while holding your boundaries – finding solutions that work for everyone.
- When you or your child have found a solution that works for everyone, make sure to acknowledge your child for their cooperation.
“You wanted to keep playing and you found a way to have fun and come for a bath. You’re a problem-solver.”
“You wanted to finish playing with your Lego, you like finishing what you started, you’re persistent. AND that took self-control to stop what you’re doing and come for a bath.”
“You came up with a solution that works for everyone! That shows you’re a team player.”
This is what Language of Listening® calls naming STRENGTHs.
The premise behind STRENGTHs is that all children have every possible inner strength and children act according to who they believe they are.
When we finish our exchanges by pointing out STRENGTHs it allows our child to see their greatness, and capability.
How to get more of the behaviour you want.
– A child who sees themselves as problem-solvers, who have self-control and who are team players will go and show you all the other ways she has that strength. Her future actions are based from that belief.
Or in contrast, what happens when a child sees themselves as trouble, always want things their way, stubborn or argumentative? You guessed it! That becomes their inner voice and their actions are based on these beliefs.
If you learn how to point out strengths, then you’re setting yourself up for future success. She gets to have the inner voice of “Oh! Yes, what I want does matter, mummy understands me, and I can do hard things, I did find a solution, I’m a problem-solver.”
It’s these 3 steps from the Language of Listening® coaching model, that will have you working from the same team, no more battles of wills! you’ll bring out more of the behaviour you do like by coaching your child to find solutions that work for you and your child within your boundaries.