Jane, the Mom I was coaching said she would feel so stuck. Her 8 year old daughter refused to do what she was asked, put back the cookies she wanted, but they didn't have time for a blow up or stand off. Jane didn't want to cave to her daughters demand, but holding her boundary in Trader Joe's seemed impossible at 5pm, late for soccer.
What to do when you feel stuck?
Learn the tip to confidently parent your strong-willed child without caving in or dimming their spirit. Get off the eggshell ledge.
Do you want to know how to confidently parent your strong-willed child without caving in or dimming their spark so you can finally break free of power struggles, guilt + self-doubt?
I get asked this all the time. It is at the crux of how to move from surviving to thriving and real relating.
Simple, but powerful. Ready for the tip..."S.T.O.P. to connect"
Let's break down the above example as there is lots happening for both of them at once.
What used to happen:
Normally this Mom would start shutting down emotionally as she'd feel embarrassed by her daughter not cooperating, throwing an intense tantrum, especially in public. She'd feel like she'd been taken hostage. Jane didn't want to 'let her daughter "win,"' but she didn't want to cause a public scene and be judged with 'disapproving faces' or even 'sympathy faces'. She didn't want to be late to soccer, again, getting more of those 'get it together' faces and feel ashamed.
She'd do one of two things and both felt awful she said. Either she'd blow up and yell, while feeling awful, guilty and embarrassed. Grab the cookies out of her daughter's hands, give her a disapproving look and move to the next isle to finish shopping for dinner as soon as she could, ignoring her daughter's loud, embarrassing shouts + complaints and onlookers stares.
She'd cave in, let her daughter put them in the cart, feeling like a pushover. Stuck and hopeless that she couldn't get her daughter to listen. Jane would feel like a parenting failure. Ugh!
Then Jane and I started working together in the coaching program Surviving to Thriving and roleplayed the skill, 'S.T.O.P. to Connect'. Her interactions with her daughter transformed.
This is what Jane says she does now:
She gets down on her daughter's level and says, "I hear you. I understand why this is so hard right now. AND since my job is the Director of Health and Safety, I'm still not going to get the cookies today. I know that's not what you want to hear. You get to feel as angry and frustrated as you need to. If it gets too loud, I'm going to take your hand and we'll leave the store and go to the car. We can come back later for our cart. This may make us late for soccer, but that's OK. I'm here for you. Sounds like you are really upset. Something really matters to you." ((Listen, Validate, Empathy, hold boundary))
Daughter: "Yes!!! It's not fair and I'm hungry and we have to get them so I can have them before practice and I will hate you forever if you don't let me have them because all my friends get snacks like this before practice and I need them right now or you are the meanest Mom on the planet..."
(This is hard to hear, she thinks to herself, but Allison warned me if I S.T.O.P. and validate her experience, I'd get an outpouring of all she's been holding in a l l d a y l o n g. Breathe. Be gentile. Allison said it would be uncomfortable, and the magic is learning to tolerate the yuck. Stay, stay, stay. And even though it feels like this isn't OK, is even dangerous and a part of me is afraid we're going to get in trouble, her words aren't actually a threat to me or my authority. I'm learning that her emotions are FOR her, not about me. The most important thing I can do right now is stay and be with her through this discomfort...and tolerate my own.
This is a cycle breaking moment. This is a skill building moment. I'm doing something different. I'm not squashing her emotions, I'm not shaming her. I'm not repressing my own and creating distance between us.)
Jane: "Hey, sounds like you really want those cookies. I get it. When I'm in the store I see all kinds of extra yummy things & I want them too. It's hard. I hate it when I don't get what I want. This really matters to you and that makes sense. You're probably hungry too. Are you feeling super frustrated right now because I said no?" (( Listen, Validate, Empathy, Hold Boundary))
Transformation isn't instantaneous, but works!
Jane said she did have to take her daughter's hand and go out to their car, which created a scene. She did feel embarrassed and her daughter did yell and resist. But once they got there, they ended up having a super connective conversation. Her daughter opened up about school friend problems and a whole list of things she'd been keeping inside.
The next time her daughter wouldn't cooperate, her daughter didn't resist quite so long. And the following week, they didn't even have to go outside. Each time she used the 5 Steps To Connect framework it created connection between them again and again, instead of the stand off + distance they used to end up in.
Jane said when she'd S.T.O.P. to listen, what would come out was hurt or loneliness or other emotions from something that had happened at school or home. Emotions that without the S.T.O.P. skill and almost forcing the interaction, they wouldn't have gotten to.
It seemed like her daughter had had to stuff down most of her hard feelings and pretend everything was fine or just explode because Jane hadn't known how to create a safe space and prioritize it. Also a group setting like school wasn't a safe place to express stuff like this either so it would build up.
Pro Tip <<It wasn't about the cookies in store. That was just a 'bad' behavior signaling that as she needed attention.
So know there is hope and skills you can learn to connect with your child.
Don't wait another day to contact Allison for your FREE 20 minute Insight coaching call to share any hard family interactions and learn a tip you can use immediately.