Parents, caregivers and teachers can face huge challenges when trying to get children to stop doing things we wish they wouldn’t do —like running out into traffic and drawing on walls, right up to a teenager thumping his foot so loudly in time to his iPod that the entire house shakes!
Recently I was chatting with a mom who was bemoaning the fallout that occurred when she politely asked her five-year-old to please stop jumping on the couch with her shoes on.
“Whenever I tell her no, or to stop doing something, it’s like the end of the world!” she recounted. “She figures there’s no reason to go on living after that, that I’m trying to take away all her fun.”
I asked the mom if she might consider reframing her question next time. Suggest something that would meet both their needs. Invite her to jump, I said; her body is telling her that she needs to do it. Whether it’s to get out some pent-up energy, build balance and increase motor skills, create connectivity between the right and left hemispheres of her brain — there are all sorts of reasons that children need to move.
“Next time,” I recommended, “don’t say ‘no’ to her — say ‘yes.’ Try something like, ‘I see your feet need to jump or you need to get your wiggles out. I’ve got a fun idea — let’s go outside and jump on the trampoline, or jump in some puddles, or off of some fallen trees in the forest.’”
It’s up to adults to find the answer to a child’s needs. Children are instinctual beings. Under the age of seven they are coming into their bodies and need to move and test their boundaries. If they are colouring on the walls, grab some blank paper and get on the floor with them or better yet, get some oversized sheets of paper to tape to the wall. As for your budding drummer, throw some interlocking dense foam pads on their floor to muffle the thuds. Be creative and look for an answer that doesn’t involve the words “no” or “stop.”
You would probably be surprised by how often you could trade in a “no” for a “yes.”
What would it feel like if you went through your day and your spouse or friend followed you around frequently telling you to do things differently — prevented you from completing a project (like drawing on the wall!), or flat-out said to you, “No. Stop it! Don’t do that!”
It wouldn’t feel good to you, and it doesn’t feel good to our children.
We all need to be creative and impulsive and to express ourselves. When we say “yes” to the impulse behind our children’s behaviour, we say yes to our child. Not in the sense that we don’t set limits and boundaries — that’s our job too — but by saying “yes,” we are recognizing and validating their very essence.
Kirsten Andrews is currently offering a seven-session Simplicity Parenting course. Details are at www.SeaToSkySimplicityParenting.com and on Facebook. Email email@example.com for more information.