Learning to say “no” is a unique, often difficult milestone for parents. Family literature suggests that there are creative and gentle ways of deviating from the word in an effort to avoid a fight. And truthfully, these methods may prove effective. However, the real lesson at the heart of all of these “tricks” is an investment.
Saying “no” to your child may be difficult, especially in the heat of a tantrum or under the guides of manipulation. But saying “no” is also a personal investment in your child’s development.
One of the biggest struggles we have as parents is drawing a line between our undying love and the needs of our children. Strange, right? We’d all like to believe those lines are the same. Yet, they tend to deviate from one another as we cave to wishes that are detrimental to our children. There is a lot of reluctance to say “no.”
As parents, we battle with the guilt of denying our children their wants, fear of an ensuing battle, and weakness from the fatigue of parenting. In effect, we deny our children the tough life lessons that actually benefit their adolescent and teenage lives. Saying “no” to children actually goes a long way in teaching the values of compromise and setting limitations.
This is a tough one for many parents who often pick up their child’s chores as a matter of efficiency. It’s no secret that children do not like to do chores around the house, and this can quickly turn into a battle when parents ask for extra help. In fact, many children will learn to feign ignorance in order to avoid work. In these circumstances, you should remain steadfast in your request and offer to demonstrate (minimally) the act of the chore.
For example, if your kid pretends they do not understand how to wash the dishes, you can offer to fill up the sink and wash one dish as an example. You can say, “No, I will not do these dishes for you because I know you are perfectly capable.” You may also add a point of appreciation and say, “I really like it when you help out. It makes me so proud.” When you know what are age appropriate chores for kids you cannot be fooled.
You should say “no” when your child may end up hurting themselves or someone else. Children lack the foresight to predict certain obstacles and dangers. Saying “no” can teach your child to make smarter, more educated decisions based on thoughtful reflection. In instances like this, it is important to explain to your child why their decision could have been harmful.
For example, if your child asks to approach a strange dog, you can say something like: “No, we do not pet strange dogs because they can get scared and bite. However, we can wave from a distance and say ‘hi’.”
Plans change. And when that happens, expectations are shattered. Children have a hard time wrapping their heads around this concept. If they have plans to go to a sleepover, then that is exactly what they are going to do. But, if you step in and cancel those plans in order to visit a sick relative, there will likely be some pushback.
As parents, we have the difficult task of teaching our children patience and understanding. Those are both incredibly complex and hard-to-learn skills. Saying “no” when plans change is about redirecting our children to a task that is more important. It’s about teaching them to understand, with empathy, that priorities shift and must be met.
For example, in the scenario of the sleepover, you might say something like: “I am so sorry, but you cannot go anymore. We have to go see Grandpa. However, we can reschedule and have your friends come over another weekend.”
One of the greatest challenges we face as parents are other people’s’ opinions. And this is unavoidable. Parenting is a different journey for every family. We each have our own set of rules, values, and methods for teaching our children. However, it’s hard not to notice other parenting styles. A lot of times, this leads to our children asking for something and then bringing up evidence that other parents have fulfilled a similar wish. If this happens, it’s important to stick to your values and explain your reasoning to your child.
For example, if your kid wants to go to the movies alone and cites evidence that other parents let their kids do this, you can say, “No, I am not comfortable with that. It is not safe, at your age, to be alone in a public place. When you are a little older, we can talk about it again.”
Anything and everything will attract the attention of a child. It could be as simple as a piece of string, or as costly as a new bike. As a parent, it can be hard to say “no” to new toys and treats. We don’t want to deny our children their desires, yet we notice that they desire for just about everything. It’s important to know when to say “no,” so that our children can learn that they can like something without owning it. It’s a lesson in disappointment, and yes, that may be hard. But we are also sowing the seeds for a future of appreciation, moderation, and financial responsibility.
For example: If your child is begging you for a new toy, you can say, “No, not today. It is very nice, I see. Perhaps, you can save up for it or ask for it on your birthday.”
Learning to say “no” can be very hard. Children are crafty in their pursuits to get what they want, and that can mean anything from master manipulation to a full-blown tantrum at the grocery store. As you navigate this process, remember to keep the long-term goal in mind.
You are teaching your child valuable lessons that will make them reasonable, self-sufficient adults. It is also important to take care of yourself during this time. Find ways to de-stress so that you can approach each situation with a level head. Some great relaxation techniques include meditation, exercise, talking with a friend, and writing in a journal.
Drop a comment and let us know what tips and tricks you’ve learned!