But what exactly does “whatever” mean? What is your child really saying?
Often, it’s something like this:
“Look, I don’t know exactly how to say this, but honestly, I don’t like what you’re saying! I actually feel a bit threatened right now. You are threatening me getting something I want, getting my way, and I don’t like it.
You see, the amygdala in my brain just got a message that there was a threat to my safety, and although this message isn’t necessarily based on mature, realistic decision making abilities, it feels unsafe. Yes, unsafe.
So my amygdala reacted by sending a quick message to my adrenal glands, which sent adrenaline to my heart, which then sent the adrenaline to my muscular system so I could keep myself safe with fight, flight or freeze.
Yep, that’s pretty much why I said “whatever”.
“Whatever”, is my attempt to set a boundary, to get you to leave me alone. I know, I know, you are probably right, but I can’t hear it right now because my brain is not in that space. You may even be trying to set a good, healthy boundary with me that I need, but part of my job is to test your boundaries to see if I can really trust you!
Anyhow, like I was saying, my nervous system is too busy being in protection mode right now, and I can’t even think straight. I am not rational or logical right now, although I will use plenty of compelling arguments with you right now to distract from the issue at hand.
Look, believe it or not, I am trying, but I don’t have enough tools yet. “Whatever” is a tool that helps me avoid, and it works a lot of the time. But, you see, I know we need to have this talk, and a big part of me doesn’t want to, so I’ll resist… A lot!
But I need you to figure out how to creatively engage me in this discussion, at another time, when you can help me feel safe enough to have it so it’s productive, understanding, so we can both be heard and we can find common ground. Ok?
I do love you, I do not like that I act this way (although I’ll probably never admit it), and I do want/need your boundaries and wisdom (and no, I won’t admit this either). Meanwhile my body is telling me to get away from you. Please understand, and let’s try this another way.
Thanks for understanding,