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Objection vs Rejection

Objection and rejection are same but different. Both take the form of “No” but the target is different.

My son’s nightly routine is to drink milk while watching an episode of his favourite cartoons. Afterwhich, he would turn off the TV (we make sure he is the one to do it so it is a willing act and we avoid unnecessary power struggle). Then he’ll proceed to negotiate for which toys to bring into the bedrooom.

However, I decided to try something different. As he was holding a lego cake that he constructed, ready to bring it into the room, I saw “No. No toys in the bedroom”. He got visibly upset and showed some resistance, then proceeded to negotiate for another episode of his favourite cartoon (Super Wings).

So I said ok, another episode, but no toy in the bedroom later ok?

He replied “Ok” (While I was wondering if it was just lip service).

When the episode ended, he put the lego cake back and went to the room to sleep.

It was a simple incident, but there was more to it than just “No”. Therein lies the distinction between objection and rejection and how it can get convoluted.

When I said “No”, it was an objection. An objection to bringing the toy into the bedroom.

When he heard “No”, it was a rejection. A rejection of his wants.

Objection and approval lie on one continuum, rejection and acceptance lie on another. However, it becomes very easy to blend them together. In this case, rejection and approval got blended.

When he asked for the lego cake to be brought in, he was seeking approval. When I said no, he didn’t see it as an objection. Instead, he felt it as a rejection and being rejected is an unsafe space to be in. So he quickly negotiated for something else to find that safe space.

Being allowed to watch another episode pulled him back into the safe space and helped him to feel that I wasn’t rejecting him, I was just objecting to his request. Consequently, he complied because he realised, I wasn’t rejecting him.

What could we learn from this?

#1 Don’t suddenly pull stunt

I admit. I pulled off a stunt like this too suddenly. I broke the routine. I threatened the normalcy and it didn’t sit well with him. I should have prepared him for it earlier.

#2 Be mindful when saying “No”

This incident revealed to me that “No” has many layers. When I get a reaction from my child because I said “No”, I’ll need to reflect on which layer did he receive it. Too often, we get reactive to our child’s reaction and he is actually trying to express that he feels rejected.

#3 Distinguish objection and rejection for the child

At the first instance, “No” is received as a rejection. When my son negotiated to watch another episode, but I insisted on no toys, I think he got the drift. That I was objecting not rejecting. I was saying no to the toy, not to him. If I had been saying no to him, I would have said no to another episode. Simply put, when a child requests for something and we say no, but offer an alternative, we indirectly teach the child that we are objecting to the request.

Cover image by Epic Records, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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