Those too-familiar negative refrains that show up in every household….
‘Not fair’, ‘don't want to’ and ‘don't know’
Children, like adults, find it easier to frame their complaints in the negative so knowing what to do with the ‘not’s and the ‘don't’ is useful for parents.
Is an easy framing, and often simply translates to - "My way of looking at this is that others get more’. Of course it also focuses on the part of the picture that is feeling less satisfied, and rarely stretches to the other times that balance the particular instance. Children believe others don't care for them when they hone in on the ‘more’ that they see others getting, or the ‘less’ they believe they are receiving. It is like only looking at one piece of a jigsaw – a narrow ‘poor me’ perspective.
So looking at why things occur, other occasions when there is difference, what others need and the slightly ego-centric ‘why not me’ approach can be useful. Expanding the view from the position that does not suit, into one in which there is a sense of including others requires discussion. Actually drawing out the picture they are focusing on and the potentials they could consider can be helpful too.
DON’T WANT TO
"Don't want" usually refers to an unwillingness to move towards what the child feels less comfortable about. Frequent ‘don't want’s are to move from something interesting to something more taxing, from easy to hard, from what is known to unknown. So the issue is not a generalized dis-inclination, but a specific concern about managing less well, having less fun, etc.
Reminding children of their abilities to handle themselves is useful, and giving a real understanding of how life moves along from better states, to worse and back again, so that they can feel hopeful of moving through the difficulty. It is helpful to talk about the value of learning in the less preferred place, and the sense of being bigger once that has been faced. It is also useful and informative to discuss the reasons behind what is being asked, and how the resistance might feel more alarming than undertaking the task itself. There is a value to ‘flow’ because it takes a child out of what they want, into an understanding of what others need from them. Try to find out what would create willingness – what would they be prepared to stretch towards… a little help, a part of the task… even knowing that it is okay to do the task less well or completely can all create small motivations to start.
Ultimately most of us ‘don't want' upset - so knowing that dragging heels only creates more upset can also be something to teach.
Remembering times in the past when the child managed similarly can be a motivator to move towards something that lacks clarity, or towards answers that might feel less certain or less right. Give a clear message that the process of guessing is vital to promoting a curious mind, and that their whole life will include new encounters, so being willing to get things wrong is essential. Sometimes when a child feels unsure it is good to give them a question or a task that is easier and then build up to the harder one, gaining confidence in the process they might be willing to face their ‘don't know’ and find the knowing. Taking risks is important for the strength it brings us, and understanding that without this, caution will always be present and become a strong obstacle to learning.
We can’t eliminate these common refrains but talking about their origins can help to reduce their constant habitual use.
Generate willingness ….
NOT FAIR – to look from another perspective, and add understanding.
DON'T WANT – to find the smallest usefulness to create willing, and add effort.
DON'T KNOW – to guess and be wrong, and use courage.