Joetta Schork is a TBRI® (Trust Based Relational Intervention®) Practitioner and Executive Director of Forever Families Foundation. She serves Hope Academy as a trauma behavior consultant having 10 years experience working with families of children who struggle with behavior regulation. Joetta has been working with Hope Academy since it opened its doors and will be sharing frequent TBRI tips for working with the children at home.
Today’s tip is about using the word “No.”
Do you have a child who seems to melt down every time they are told no? This is not an uncommon occurrence. The stress response system can be activated by non-life-and-death situation. One of those non-life-and-death triggers is not getting what we want or need (or what we think we want or need) when or how we think it should happen.
While it is not OK to have a meltdown every time we are told “no”, it is important to understand why it happens in order to help the child correct the response. “No” sends a message to the primal brain which then sends an automatic unconscious (stress) response of “oh no! I’m not getting what I need/want, I am going to die!!!” This of course sounds silly to us adults as obviously the child isn’t going to die if they didn’t get a piece of candy or to use their electronics. As silly as it sounds, this is the message the survival brain is sending through their body.
Our natural response is to think that because a child needs to learn to accept the word “no”, that we should use it more often until they learn how to handle it. This however is actually counterproductive to our goal. Much like using a banking account, It is important for adults to deposit “yeses” into our connection account so we can withdraw some “nos” when we need to. Before answering “no” to a child’s request it’s important to ask ourselves: Is this really a “no” situation? (Perhaps it’s no because of MY preferences or my convenience and has nothing to do with the actual request?) If you can make a yes happen, make that deposit!!!!
Unfortunately There are times the request truly must be met with a “no”, but try a softened “sideswipe”…. instead of using the harsh “no” we approach first with empathy and an enthusiastic what we can do….“oh going outside right now would be awesome! The sun is shining! I know you are excited about that! I tell you what, help me finish up this last rotation and then we’ll head outside and I will push you on the swing first thing, I know that’s your favorite! okie dokie?!?!?”
If the situation must be met with an actual “no”, give a reason (short response). Let the child know you’ve heard their request but there is a valid reason you must say no.
Choices and compromises can also be helpful in this situation.
We’ll talk about those next time.
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