No Friends Allowed!

No Friends Allowed!

When you try to SAY WHAT YOU SEE, and “it doesn’t work,” that phrase tells you that you are trying to manage your child’s behavior instead of coaching them. Kids can tell the difference, and so can you by their resistance.

Here’s my coaching for Ali from the UK on how to flip a no-way-out situation for her 5 YO into fun. Her little cousin was coming over whether she wanted her to or not. (Children’s names have been changed.)

Ali’s Question:

So my 5 YO is having lots of rage outbursts. Not always sure how to handle it. When I try SAY WHAT YOU SEE she just shouts, “Stop it, stop talking!” and I get lost. It’s not OK for me to stop talking when she shouts at me.


Today it was about her cousin Lilly coming over. She was shouting, “I don’t want to see Lilly, and I don’t have to.” I responded to the “I don’t want to see Lilly” with things like,”You wish Lilly wasn’t coming. Seems like you really don’t want her around today,” but then she said, “I don’t HAVE TO!” and then I got lost again. We had a girls’ day with my sister. I’m tired this week and finding it harder anyway.


Sometimes me not saying anything and just letting her shout it out seems to have the effect of the emotion releasing through her, and she will often stop shouting and get calm again. Maybe I’m just not allowing her to do this and trying to talk when it’s really not necessary. I’m not sure :-/

My Answer:

You are right that it’s not OK for her to shout at you. If not saying anything allows her to calm herself, then do that, and later remember to point out self-calming as a STRENGTH. It sounds like she is able to do that quite quickly which shows she also has self-control, so add that, too. (If children do not know they can calm themselves, boundaries and Success Training can help them discover their STRENGTHs.)   

And there may be something else you can do before she gets to the point of yelling. From what I’ve heard on the recording of her outburst you sent me, it’s really clear from the moment you start talking that your goal is to calm your daughter down, not validate or facilitate. That’s why she escalates and shouts at you. 

And she may sometimes tolerate your statements of wishes, but her experience of them has probably been that regardless what she wishes, she still “has to.” Thus, “I don’t HAVE TO!” is now built into her initial statement.

Backing up to before she shouts at you, with Language of Listening the point is to COACH not control. So your goal is different. It’s to get on her side, facilitate her feelings, and help her find a solution that actually works for her. Playful CAN DOs do all three.

When you step into coaching,
kids don’t need to shout to be heard.

For example, getting on your daughters side and facilitating her feelings when she first said, “I don’t want to see Lilly, and I don’t have to,” would sound more like, “Oh no! And she’s coming now! Quick, hide!!!” That could meet her need for power and shift the target of control from Lilly to herself.

If she says she doesn’t want to hide, and stays focused on controlling Lilly, you could offer a CAN DO something like this, “What if we camouflaged the door to your room, so she couldn’t find it?” Then your daughter might say, “No, the door to the house!” and you could say, “Wow, you don’t even want her to step inside the house!”

Saying what’s true for your daughter without judgment is the kind of SAY WHAT YOU SEE validation that she would be able to hear. She wouldn’t need to shout because she’d know you understood her concern and would be on her side in helping her deal with it.

Can you see how this kind of coaching response gets to the point, puts you on her side, helps her accept the boundary (her cousin is coming over), meets her need for power, and lightens the situation naturally? It’s all about taking your daughter seriously and helping her find more playful solutions to a tough situation where she feels trapped. “Trapped” makes kids defensive which adults misinterpret as mean which makes them more defensive which shows up as even more mean… Playful solutions give kids a quick way out.

When you take children seriously and problem solve from their point of view, they naturally shift toward peace and joy on the emotional scale.

That shift occurs because you are meeting their need for connection and power, and that allows them to accept things they don’t like, often without tears. 

So in your daughter’s case, while you help her try to hide her door or the house door, you can check for a change in her level of resistance to her cousin’s arrival by listening for comments like, “When she gets here…” which tells you she is already letting Lilly into her mind, which is the first step in engaging with her in real life. Thoughts are an important part of the process of acceptance.

If your daughter has any anger left at her cousin’s perceived intrusion, she can get it out in her imaginary story about what Lilly will do and how she will feel when she arrives and can’t find the door. Even if your daughter imagines her crying because she can’t get in, that’s great! Being able to tell you that and laughing over this imaginary scenario, or even acting it out, will help her release her fears of being mean and will “open the door” for her to accept Lilly when she actually arrives.

The thing you know about your daughter is that she has big fears of being rejected if she is not happy around other people. She wants them to like her so much that she gets really upset when she is not in the “right” mood. Bottom line is that she is scared that she can’t control her feelings and needs to. Letting her feel what she feels and facilitating those feeling by helping her play it out before others arrive will help take the pressure off.

So whether she becomes playful or stays serious during the camouflage activity, you can ask her what she wants you to do when Lilly arrives. If she doesn’t know, you can suggest engaging her cousin in the game of Nobody Gets Into My House/Room, which would validate her wishes without Lilly taking it personally. When Lilly arrives, either let her know of your daughter’s concerns about only wanting to see friends when she feels happy and how you think the game will help, or just invite Lilly to play the game with no explanation and watch the rest unfold.

From the very first moment, coaching feels different. It’s not stopping, managing or controlling kids’ behavior; it’s getting on their side, facilitating, and guiding.

What are your thoughts as you read this?

Ali’s Reply:

Thank you for your reply. And yes—I was trying to manage behaviour, and she was so miserable all morning even when Lilly arrived. And Lilly was sad that my daughter wasn’t playing with her, and I didn’t handle it well. Realised what I find really hard is the adults’ expectations—I was worried about what my sister (Lilly’s mum) would think of it all. I wanted to “make” my daughter play with Lilly, and was terribly uncomfortable with her behaviour. They naturally started playing after a couple of hours.


I felt like everything has been on my daughter’s terms today. She was asking me to stand in exact positions, and I was able to say, “Wow, you really just want to tell me what to do!” and realised how little control she is probably feeling 🙁


I can see what you mean about coaching being different. I’m so committed to getting to this level of truth, just still finding it tricky at times.

My Reply:

Astute observations and a solid SAY WHAT YOU SEE response! When she needs you to stand in an exact position, just like my daughter telling me to draw on her lines in power playtime, those are definitely cries for control/power.

I feel like you are crying for the same thing. Control of your children and control of yourself. Ask yourself what is the root of this for you? It’s the thing that is blocking your trust that you can be loved and accepted just as you are. It is probably the same thing your daughter is wrestling with now. Bringing acceptance to her with your coaching will help bring your own acceptance to you.

And when you can’t control a situation that you wish you could, say that, then get on her side for how to deal with it. It’s hard to admit that you have no control. I can hear in the things your kids have said that they always think that you do or should have control, which tells me you probably think that about yourself, too.

Ali’s Reply:

Love it 🙂 Thank you as always!

What are your thoughts as you read this?

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