“Come on, Sweetheart. It’s time to get in the car. We’re getting ready to go home.” Mama nudged 6-year old Ella toward the backseat car door. Older sister Mia had already gotten in and buckled up. The grown-ups were hugging their goodbyes. Ella, however, caught an attitude.
“I don’t want to go,” she declared, stomping her foot for emphasis. She crossed her arms and looked up at her mom defiantly.
In such situations, mom is at a crossroads. She can choose power, or she can choose relationship. She can go big, or she can go small. Her choices will likely calm or multiply the drama.
One option, choose power and go big. Mom took a breath, standing tall over her youngster. “Young lady, I don’t have time for this. Get in the car.”
Now, mom is within her rights to respond this way, but at what cost? Ella could meet the challenge, digging her heels in and silently giving her mom “the eye.” This response would up the ante for mom in a battle she would win. Mom could then double down with, “and I mean right now!” Ella could cave, begin tearing up, and slowly get in the car. Or, Ella could stand her ground, whereupon mom would have to physically get her in the car. She chooses power, wins, but in reality everybody loses.
Another option, choose relationship by taking the time to address Ella’s feeling and giving her options. After Ella declared she didn’t want to go, mom could take a breath, kneel down so that she could talk to her daughter eye-to-eye, and active listen until Ella’s emotional fever begins to go down.
“Aw, Baby. You really want to stay longer with your Nana and Papa.” Ella’s shoulders loosen as she nods her answer. “It’s not fair that we have to leave so soon. It seems like we just got here, huh?” Ella reaches out to put her arms around her mom’s neck and gets tearful.
Mom concludes that Ella’s feeling have been soothed and she switches to giving options. “You know, baby, I have some ideas about how we can handle this. Do you want to hear them?”
Asking permission from your child to speak is a highlight of any child’s life and usually leads to effective problem-solving. Ella agrees and mom continues, “Since it’s getting late and it will be your bedtime when we get home, I bet you could text your Nana from the car to tell her what fun you had visiting. Tell her your best part of the visit. Then, you guys can talk about when it would be okay for you to have a sleepover. Sound like a plan?”
Choosing power is always quicker, but at the expense of a close relationship with your child. When she is being stubborn, for any reason, choose relationship, lowering her emotional fever with active listening and then getting permission to offer some solutions that work for all.