The Fine Art Of Saying No
We are raising our children in confusing and anxiety-producing times. Now perhaps more than ever before, our children need clear and consistent limits to help them on their challenging journey of becoming healthy and productive adults. It is imperative to say “No” to our kids and to stick with it. Why is this so difficult?
You Did Not Hesitate When Your Child Was a Toddler
Parents of young children (toddlers) do not struggle with saying no. When you spent time with these young families, you will notice the word “no” often used to deter behaviors such as walking toward a street, picking up a stick, or squeezing the family dog too hard. The word no seems to roll effortlessly off their tongues, and the reason for this is simple. Their children do not argue back. While they may or may not respond as desired, there is no verbal argument.
So what happens as our children grow older? First, they start to find their voice, and the fun begins. The next time you have a free moment, which is rare, if you are raising children, try to compute how much income you would amass if you received a dollar every time your child argued back against your saying no. Would you have retired by now?
Why Are You Hesitating?
Please take a moment now and ask yourself why you have such a hard time saying no and often struggle to stick with it. Are you parenting out of fear? Are you afraid that the moment you tell your child he/she cannot put that item in the grocery cart, he/she will flip out in public? Imagine what it was like for me as a child psychologist with two young kids who always seemed to “pull this” after I had just said hello to a family I had only seen the day before in the office.
You Are Not Your Child’s Friend
Perhaps you are operating under the misguided notion that you and your child are supposed to be friends. You are not friends. It is not your job to be your child’s friend, and you may be causing harm. You can have a warm, loving, close, and respectful relationship and love spending time with your child, but you are not his/her friend.
Perhaps you want to be the “cool parent.” You are so tired of your son/daughter, begging you to drop him/her two blocks from the party that you think “being cool” will change your child’s attitude. Don’t confuse being cool with being permissive. You can be friendly and respectful to your child’s friends, but please remember you are not one of the “guys/girls.”
You may find yourself in a tough situation when raising a teenager who is struggling with issues of self-esteem and acceptance by peers. Giving your teenager permission to do things that you know in your heart is not appropriate; for example, spending time with peers you are concerned about is potentially harmful to your child.
While we are looking at saying “no,” let’s also consider stopping these long and drawn out negotiations we have with our kids. I’m tired of hearing parents tell me what a great lawyer or politician their child is going to be as if it justifies the incredible battles they are currently having trying to get their child to attend to a simple task in a timely fashion.
The next time you say “no” to your child, pretend you are in the middle of critical business negotiation, and you have learned in your illustrious career never to be the next one to speak after stating your position. If it works in your other profession, it will work at home.
When you set age-appropriate limits, you are equipping your children to deal successfully with the myriad of difficult challenges that await them. Look your child in his/her eye, put your tongue behind your two front teeth and firmly say no and if you feel compelled to come up with a reason for your heretic like the comment you may try saying, “Because I said so and I’m your dad/mom.”