Working with 'wants'
Desire and difficulties need to be balanced. But in our times of plenty it could be that our children's wanting has become ‘weighted’ and a dominant force in the home.
All children have wants, (adults too). Humans want what makes them feel good to avoid what makes them feel bad. I think our grandparent's generation had more fortitude to accept the 'less good' moments of life and if we hope to build better management of our children's wants, we must generate more gratitude of what we have, but also appreciate what we gain when we manage in 'dont want'-land.
Our natural wanting includes safety and connection. But in today’s more secure and prosperous world our wanting has grown from essentials to a long list we believe important to our well-being. Our children want MORE – interest/nice/new/attention/support/treats/fair/reassurance…
They want to feel special and strive to gain MORE – they want to live life in PLUS-mode!
Unfortunately, this striving (which we as parents model and perpetuate) puts attention on things being ‘bigger/better/best’ and a GAP between what we have and what we want occurs. The gap itself creates dissatisfaction.
Perhaps we would do better to teach our children to look at the ‘don't wants’ that hide behind their wants. To help them see their NOT wanting takes more thought and skill then simply detouring them away from their desires. It requires that we help them see the moments in which they move away from feeling unsure, being less important, less entertained, just ordinary, or putting effort into accepting things as they are. When they want a sibling to stop being noisy, they are avoiding their own internal reactions to feeling frustrated. When they want a toy at the end of the trip to the zoo, they are not wanting the special day to bump back to basics. Guiding children to see the ‘don't want’ behind the want, allows them to expand their thinking from creating a perfect world, and encourages them to settle for imperfect, for ‘less’ lovely side of life’s daily experience.
Learning to see what we are avoiding helps us to make more rational choices about our capacity to endure and manage difficulty. If we fail to turn towards our ‘don't want’s’ we will assume they are REALLY difficult not NEARLY difficult. And the managing of ‘don't wants ‘ are a way for children to grow…their staying with the moments of discomfort downloads the capacity to be braver, stronger, more persistent and more patient. But we need to model this for them too.
Don't be afraid, as parents, to talk about your own don't wants. If you don't want them arguing and they are – instead of asking them to switch into what you ‘want’ – (peace), perhaps let them know how you are enduring your difficulties. Sharing how we hold ourselves safe (or soothed) when things are hard benefits our children, it allows them to consider alternatives to solutions and ‘fixing’ their world by simply staying uncomfortable and coping. The enduring that this generates grows into resilience.
When children want irrationally (like the pink banana above) - they want power.... here are some more to consider....
I want Don't want
to blame others to be responsible for mistakes/actions/intolerances
attention to handle myself unsupported
to show off to have to evaluate myself
more screen time the unease/effort of social interaction or filling my time myself
to interrupt waiting, which is much harder
to stay in bed to find the energy/commitment I need to get through my day
to stay up at night to think 'bad' night time thoughts
to annoy siblings to have to look for something independent to do
to refuse food to submit to parent power
to avoid homework all the frustrations/upsets it may involve
to be right to feel judged/be judged if wrong
to fixate on something to find ways to explain, persuade or request
keep going - figure out your own family lists ...... happy 'don't want' hunting........