This episode deals with a lot of subjects, but I’ll be focusing on a specific tool that you can use: the expression “asked and answered,” which is short form for “you’ve asked, and I’ve given my answer.” Now for an example:
Suppose you’re in the checkout line at the store and your child wants a lollipop. They ask, you say no — but they keep asking and they keep whining and maybe even throw a tantrum, and then you’re embarrassed. And then you break. You say, “okay, fine. You can have a lollipop.” And what that child learns is: “all I need to do is create such a scene that Mom or Dad will finally give in.”
When this happens, it doesn’t mean your child is bad, manipulative, or sneaky. It doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with your child either! It means your child is smart, utilizing problem-solving skills in order to achieve a sweet objective: candy. We the parents are in our 20s, 30s, 40s, and 50s, and WE like to get our own way in much bigger matters … so surely we can understand where they’re coming from.
So, back to the checkout line: they ask for the lollipop, and you say no. They ask why, and you could justify your answer (but you don’t have to, and in this case it’s actually best that you don’t). OR you could respond, using your calm, assertive pack leader energy: “asked and answered.” As you practice this technique, you will achieve success in derailing many of your children’s petty demands through consistent application of calm, assertive pack leader energy. Tone is everything here. Don’t whine, don’t yell, be calm. You’re the one with the developed prefrontal cortex.
Now, your child will often not be reasonable. They will still throw tantrums, and it may be over bigger things like extra screen time or staying out later with friends or borrowing the car. Do not throw a tantrum with them. Remember, when they’re feeling a really big emotion and going into the red, it’s the first time they’ve felt it strongly enough to lose control, possibly in conjunction with external negative stimuli like being hungry or tired. They are not giving you a hard time; they are having a hard time!
As always, your job is to be the flight attendant keeping your first-time flyer on Big Emotion Airlines calm, and helping your children process their big emotions in a healthy way will prepare them for life. You’ve got this!
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