A few weeks ago I noticed that every time I asked my almost six year old son, Gabriel, to do anything he said, “No.” Well, in actuality he said, “No way, José!” very loudly. Like any normal mother I hoped this behavior would change. I hoped some more. And still more. Days went by before I realized my hoping was getting me nowhere.
Well, it was getting me more and more angry with his lack of cooperativeness. At this point it dawned on me that I was on what I like to call, Unconscious Parenting Autopilot. This is a place we all fall into when we think our child’s behavior is the problem and we hope that in the next hour, or day, or week it is magically going to get better if we just ignore it enough (or yell at it or time out it or deprive it of something it wants).
This rarely, if ever, works but luckily I have in my parenting tool kit the Parenting by Connection tools that really do work. I could now see that Gabriel had some feelings that were blocking his ability to be cooperative. I knew this because kids are naturally flexible and want to cooperate. When they don’t, it just means there is some “gunk” in their system. It was time to clean out the “gunk” and help Gabriel offload those feelings!
So the next time he said, “No way, José,” I knelt down in front of him, looked in his eyes and with a lot of warmth and attention said, “Yes, I do need you to pick up your clothes.” He said no a few more times, then began to cry and tantrum. This is what I was hoping for! I listened to him until the tantrum finished completely. In the next few days this scene repeated itself two more times with me listening fully until his tantrum finished by itself.
The next day I asked him to set the table. He said, “Ok, Mama,” as if it were a perfectly normal request. As I finished cooking dinner he set the table humming to himself. I stood there feeling so grateful (once again) for having the Hand in Hand Parenting tools on hand to help me through a challenging parenting moment. Thank you!
-You can join Certified Hand in Hand Instructor Alaiya Aguilar in January for her six-week Building Emotional Understanding course