One day when I took my young son to Burger King, he wanted something he couldn’t have and I said no. It didn’t work out well for either of us. What he wanted was “white pop” (known to older kids as Sprite). I was OK with that. I held the cup to the Sprite label on the soda dispenser. Guess what color the Sprite label is? Hint: it is not white. It is green.
He got VERY upset because he didn’t want green pop, he wanted “white pop.” In his mind, I should be holding his cup under the WHITE label. Well, that is Diet Coke. That was a definite no-go. All the reasonable, rational words in the world did not soothe this young soul. He was apoplectic. Furious. Before I could even show him the color of the drink coming out of the green spigot, he was on the floor, flailing and crying.
Kids of all ages want so many things that they can’t have:
Sugar in massive quantities at all times.
Screen-time in massive quantities at all times.
Play time in massive quantities at all times.
Their way in massive quantities at all times.
Who are the fun-thwarters? It’s us – the parents.
“No, you can’t have a bowl of Lucky Charms right before dinner.”
“No, you can’t wrap your little brother in Saran Wrap.”
“No, you can’t hit your sister with the mini-golf club.”
We have lots of good reasons for saying “no.”
Delivery is everything. We can take the sting out of our “no’s” by remembering “N&N”: Name and Normalize.
Step 1: we NAME that we get it…we really get it…how much they want what they want.
Step 2: we NORMALIZE how they feel about it.
A couple examples:
Step One: we NAME that we get it…we really get it…how much they want what they want.
Step Two: we NORMALIZE how they feel about it.
Name: “I see how much fun you think it would be to wrap your brother in Saran Wrap. I get it!” “Normalize: “And I can see how bummed you are that I won’t let you.”
N&N’s are not a miracle cure for our kids’ disappointment. But saying no while giving our kids some N&N’s take away a bit of the sting. It lets them feel seen and understood and empathized with. If we make a point of getting to their level, giving direct and warm eye contact, and SEEING them, our “no’s” might become less of a trigger for them.