Do people value choices? Do parents value choices? How do we show our children this?
Wear that, pick up that, put that away, study this, go to this school, be in this dance class, be polite, be quiet, sit in your chair, you can't take that toy with you, don't play with the game this way, that's not the rules! The list goes on and on... this one is especially overused...
DON'T TALK BACK! (this one baffles my mind?) It's like saying, don't have an opinion, don't tell me how you are feeling, don't express how angry you are, don't show me your emotions, don't question anybody, just follow along like a sheep.
Frankly if my child says, NO! I don't want to! Of course my face feels red, my heart begins to pound, fear creeps in, and thoughts like, "Oh no, now what? He's not going to listen to me, he's not going to do what I want him to do? I no longer have a robot, I have a person. What now????"
What now indeed? You now have a 3 year old. Or 4,5,6 and so on... your baby is growing up. Isn't that awesome?? Shouldn't this be the point where we go, wow, cool, your starting to develop your own opinions, thoughts, ideas... Your starting to realize you may have choices! you have a different way to do something! You have the ability to say no. Why can't we respect this no?
Ok, so let's get more specific, cause at this point your all freaking out and thinking, but what if it's NOT safe? not allowed? not socially accepted? not this time of day? not ok to play with? not ok to eat? What if he CAN'T do it and will fail, fall or get hurt? What if, what if...
I think that we need to sit down at this point of "I don't want to. and LISTEN to him/her! Actually LISTEN. This is where you start to ASK QUESTIONS! (and not just why? they don't quite get why yet.)
Also, try to RELATE to them. Try to guess what they may be feeling and why. VALIDATE this! Don't we want to be heard, validated and understood when we say NO!???
To give an EXAMPLE:
Clean your room! "NO, I don't want to!"
Parent: "I hear that you don't want to clean your room. How are you feeling?"
(maybe they can answer, maybe not) wait it out.
Child: "I"m mad!"
Parent: "Oh you look angry, your fists are tight, does your face feel hot? Is your tummy hurting?" (Try to guess how their body is feeling. This will help them connect their physical body to their feelings and words.)
Child: "I just don't want to clean it!"
Parent: "Your enjoying playing with your trains right now, aren't you?" (Try to guess why they don't want to do it. Maybe they are busy with friends, or in the middle of something else.)
Child: "Yeah! I love my trains, I don't want to clean it up."
(Remember they could just feel overwhelmed and not know what to clean, or how to start or they don't want to clean up what they are playing with. Think about what is important for the right now and for you and your child's relationship. It is super important to clean up RIGHT NOW? or can it wait, can you put a timer on? Decide TOGETHER on a good amount of time. You want to invite cooperation.
Parent: "Ok, you like your train, but look at your cars, stuffies and leggo, your not playing with them right now. Why don't we put those away in the bins and I can help you. You can leave your train right where it is. You don't have to clean up your train right now. What did you want to start with? The cars? The leggo?"
(Begin to give choices, ask for them to come with ideas, or the order on doing something. Ask if they need your help or if they are old enough to try to do it independently? Use that word, they like to think of themselves as very independent! Use it as a praise in other areas of your day.
Child: "Can you help me? I'll put the cars away and you can do the leggo?"
Ok, I know this is just one example and there are LOTS of other situations that occur that may not be an easy fix, but this is a start.
I want you to start thinking of your children as little people with choices, ideas and desires. Let them be deciding factors in their own lives. Maybe they like their room messier than yours, it's OK!
Start to ask more questions. What do we need when we go outside? What do we need on our feet? It's raining what else can we bring? What do we need to bring to school? a restaurant? a car ride? grandma's house? Can you show me? can you find it? Can you tell me how you feel?
What are you thinking? (a great one to use instead of why?) Many children will answer 'because' to the question of why. But when you ask what are you thinking, they may have to dig deeper and they may actually tell you! When my two year old threw a shoe at this younger brother, I asked him, "What were you thinking?" He said, "I was thinking about getting rid of the baby." It was so honest, he was feeling left out, he wanted some attention, he was feeling like he didn't like this little baby around anymore. I couldn't get angry, I did start planning some one on one time with him, however. Which worked and now, 2 years later, they LOVE each other to death.
They are little people in desperate need to be taught, understood, related with, loved and heard. Remember we didn't have children to have robots who do exactly what we say all the time. We had children to teach, and allow them to discover, explore, ask questions and even yes say no.