It always seems that our children frequently have trouble with limits placed on their behaviors. The resulting reaction is often over the top and doesn’t seem to really fit the situation. This is usually due to your child seeing things in a very black-and-white manner. In many respects, this is not unusual for children to see things in a very concrete way.
Here’s a typical example:
(Child wining after being told to do their chores) “I don’t want to do it!”
Parent: ”I know you don’t like it, but you still have to do your chore!”
In this example, the word but tends to make everything that came before it not matter. Before you know it, your child feels invalidated and they tend to escalate even further in their protests.
Now imagine if you just change one word in this exchange. Notice how this phrase feels different.
Parent: “I know you don’t want to do it and you can still do your chore.”
This small shift helps to acknowledge your child’s feelings, while not giving them the out to avoid the tasks they need to complete.
This concept is known as dialectics. It refers to the idea that two opposing ideas can be true at the same time. In our example, your child does not have to like to do their chore and they can still complete it.
Here are some other examples:“You can be scared at night and still sleep in your own bed.”
“You can feel like relaxing and still take out the garbage.”
“You can be mad at your sister and still be respectful to her.”
This really helps the child to begin to develop the skills that will be helpful for them in later life. The world is full of contrasting ideas that can both be true.
The world can be a cruel place and you can still show kindness.
Things won’t go your way and you can still keep trying.
This small change you can make with how you frame things to your child could make a difference in their reactions.
One of the best things we can teach our children is that we can persevere despite things not going the way you want them to. Helping your child learn this lesson will help create resiliency in them. In addition, by just changing but to and you will be responding in a much more empathic manner that won’t excuse your child for not trying.