As we get older, the whole notion of wishes often gets put in the ‘hog wash’ pile. We sort desires into the can, and can't possibly happen, categories, and talk more about facing reality. “You wish”, becomes a scoffing term when someone touts dreams we deem unlikely.
Believing in wishes
Our children believe more in the power of wishes. They imagine, and express themselves more freely, especially if they are not ‘squashed’ when they do.
We can, in fact, take wishes out of the realm of child's play, and use them as a useful parenting strategy. “I wish…”, and “you wish….”, can actually be really respectful ways of hearing our children.
They have so little power over many areas of their lives, and a limited understanding of what is possible, versus what is not. Many of their desires, expressed as demands, are ill-timed.
Rather than flat out denying what they want, we can try a different approach. It softens the blow of the no for them, because it is acknowledging the validity of their feelings.
Consider these responses:
“I wish I had a drink for you. You're so thirsty. Let's get you some water as soon as we can”.
“ You wish you could have that truck. It sure is cool”!
“That sounds really hard. I wish your friends were kinder to you at lunchtime.
“You wish you could have every flavour in the shop. Let me know when you've decided the one you want”.
“You wish I could stay with you instead of going to work”.
This isn't condescending, or a form of trickery. It’s making a statement of how things are for them.
It’s coming alongside our child, instead of just shutting them down. A dialogue is opened if our child needs a bit more. Our tone is kind, and genuine. and we’ve found children appreciate this approach.
We can’t say yes to everything they want, but we can say yes, we’re willing to understand them.
We show empathy when we can relate to their struggle, without being able to instantly solve it.
When we name what they feel, and why, we’re humanising them, which is especially important in a society that often treats children as an ‘other’.