A Gentle “No”

sippy cupIt was morning time, and my three-year-old son had slept a little less than his normal amount. I could sense that feelings were close to the surface. We were in the kitchen trying to get breakfast going. Whatever I said, the answer was “NO!” He was really out of kilter.

I asked if he wanted apple juice or raspberry juice. The answer was “NO JUICE!” “OK, no juice,” I said. “I WANT JUICE!” “OK, here’s your bear vitamin,” I said. He threw it on the floor, “NO BEAR!” He was almost crying. “OK, don’t eat your bear,” I said. He picked up the bear vitamin and ate it. I gave him juice in a sippy cup. He did not want that cup with the little animals on it. “NO, NOT THAT CUP! I DON’T WANT THAT CUP! I WANT THE TRAIN CUP.” He was whimpering, almost crying.

I try to remember to get down at his level to connect with him when we’re having a tough time. I sat on the floor and said, “Well, honey, you can’t use the train cup today because it’s dirty and in the dishwasher,” as kindly as I could. “YES TRAIN CUP!” he said, and started to cry. This was finally the trigger that let him feel his upset. I don’t know what the underlying upset was, but he was feeling completely unhappy. We went back and forth with “I WANT THE TRAIN CUP,” “I’m sorry, honey, but we are just not going to use that train cup today.” He could cry for a minute or two with each exchange.

The crying started when he was standing a couple of feet away from where I was sitting. Gradually we both moved closer to each other, until we got to the point where he allowed himself to sit in my lap, facing me. Each time the crying tapered off, I said in a soft tone, “We’re not going to use that train cup today,” and he could cry some more. This lasted for about 5 -10 minutes until when I said the triggering words, he didn’t feel sad anymore. Then I asked if he was ready to eat breakfast. He said yes, got up, we kissed, and we got on with breakfast. The issue of the cup had evaporated, we were close again, and the rest of the day went pretty well.

– a Parenting by Connection mom

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