YOU’RE about to visit Granny when your child announces he doesn’t want to go.
First thing to consider is your child’s age, says parent coach Val Mullally. “A three-year-old is very much in the moment — maybe he’s got a new toy he doesn’t want to leave. It’s of far more concern if it’s an older child with an established relationship with Granny.”
Your child’s reluctance could be down to any of myriads of reasons: ‘Granny makes me eat peas’; ‘I want to go to a game with my friends today’; ‘I’m afraid of her dog’; ‘She prefers my younger sister to me’.
Parent’s best response is to be open to hearing the child’s experience, says Mullally. But parents’ own anxiety often gets in the way of this. “They’re thinking ‘what’s Granny going to say’ or ‘my child doesn’t like Granny’. They’re worried about family upset.”
Mullally says don’t negate the child’s experience. Resist saying: ‘don’t be silly’, or ‘Granny will be sad if you don’t come’.
“Coming in with these comments when you haven’t heard your child’s experience isn’t going to help. You’re not using this opportunity to learn what’s really going on for your child — and you’re losing an opportunity to help your child learn.”
Mullally recommends being calm and parking your own anxieties. Next step is to mirror what the child says: ‘I hear you don’t feel like visiting Granny right now. Tell me more.’ “Keep an open, listening space so you can hear child’s experience.”
Continue mirroring as appropriate: ‘so you want to go to the match today with your friends?’ In this case, you might help your child develop negotiation skills, says Mullally. “If there’s something on that’s so important to the child, perhaps it’s the time to make it a priority. You might say ‘if you don’t visit Granny because you’re going to the match, when are we going to see her?’”
Parents need to trust their intuition to find the way forward in these kinds of conversations. Part of the conversation — after you’ve really heard your child — may involve asking ‘so what do we need to do [about issue that makes child not want to visit Granny]?’ “Use the pronoun ‘we’ so child doesn’t feel he has to tackle this alone,” suggests Mullally. The child might say ‘I’ll stay home’, to which the parent might respond ‘well, one option could be that you stay home — and what else could we do?’
What you want, says Mullally, is to turn a ‘survive moment’ into a ‘thrive opportunity’.
* Val Mullally has just launched a six-week online parenting course – www.koemba.com
* Park own anxiety.
* Never negate child’s experience — avoid the ‘ah, you’ll be grand’ type of comment.
* Listen to child’s experience.
* Use collaborative approach — (we) to create win-win solutions — child expresses needs but at the same time is respectful of others’ feelings.
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