In today’s permissive society, it’s YES that’s the ruling force of the day. Parenting books and articles are replete with philosophies, expounding on the importance of understanding your child and showing him endless love. This is crucial, of course. Yet, when parents take these philosophies too far, the result can be a spoiled, undisciplined child, who has never heard a NO and can, therefore, never appreciate a YES.
Of course, we like to say YES, because we love our kids and we love to give. We think that when we’ll say YES, we’ll have happy kids. Yet, if we never say NO, we’re making a big mistake.
Firstly, children can have many pals; they only have one set of parents. If the parent is not an authority figure and becomes an equal, the child is missing someone vital for whom there is no substitute.
In addition, children need and want boundaries. It makes them feel safe and protected. It even makes them feel loved and cared for.
Finally, from time to time, every person encounters a NO. There are inevitable scenarios that do crop up in life and demand acceptance. A person who has rarely heard the word NO will find it very difficult to deal with a NO in adulthood. NO is integral for healthy development.
Saying NO sometimes expresses even more love than YES, because it connotes, “ I’ve thought this through and I’m not answering YES off the cuff. I care too much to allow you to do this.” When we have internalized this concept, then we can assert our parental power without feeling guilty or mean. Then, when we say NO in a loving way, our children can feel secure, knowing there’s a family hierarchy and parental boundaries.
If we are using enough unconditional love, positive reinforcement and creating a generally positive atmosphere in our homes, we needn’t be afraid of saying NO.
HOW AND WHEN TO SAY NO:
There are two golden rules. Before saying NO, stop and think. And once you’ve said no, stick to it.
It’s important to say NO to things that pose a moral or physical danger to a child. Of course, an elastic stretched too far will jump back. If we impose too many restrictions on our children, in the worst case scenario, they will rebel; in the best case scenario, our NO will lose its effectiveness, because we will not be able to carry it through.
In general, once we’ve decided to say NO, we must stick to it. Children naturally try to test our word. Once they learn that we can be swayed, we’ve taught them that they can manipulate us. The NO must be non-negotiable.
Yet, bear in mind that there can be circumstances, which require us to reconsider. Usually, these situations occur when we are presented with a new piece of information that we did not know when we made our decision. Then, it is acceptable for a mother to tell her child, “I thought it over and, in light of my new perspective, I’ve decided that…” Flexibility is a healthy thing for our children to see and a lesson in itself-if it happens infrequently enough.
Sometimes, it is difficult for our child to swallow the NO. We can empathize. “I know you really wanted a new briefcase.” We can even active listen. “I see you really wanted to…” But, we cannot exchange our parental power with active listening or empathy. At the end of the day, we have to pull the strings and make the decisions. So, you can soothe your tantruming two-year-old, you can give a cheer-up supper for your sulking teenager and you can empathize with your complaining school girl. But, you still must be firm. “I know how hard this is for you, but still…”
We mentioned earlier that if our children hear NO too often, they’ll become immune to it. At times, you may wish to choose to say NO without using the word. Giving a different alternative very often avoids conflict.
- You can explain to your four-year-old, “You may have a freeze pop-after supper”.
- Or when you don’t want your daughter to join a sleepover, you can offer, “You can invite your cousin to sleep in our house tonight.” Which is really saying, “I’ll let you have it MY way!”
- Or “Yes, I’d love to drive you to the store. On Sunday I’ll have more time.”
Another way to make NO more palatable is to add a logical explanation. For some children the “because” helps them comply. However, we still must beware that even if our children pester and question the reasoning, our decision will still be enforced. Don’t fall into the bargaining trap.
It is also important that there be times that our children hear an unequivocal, resounding, “NO. Because Mommy said so.” This reinforces the parent’s power as the authority in the house and sends vital messages to the child.
Let us realize that NO is a tremendous favor for our children. When we feel confident with our decision, our children will feel it and respect it.
So, what should you know about no? It’s important. It’s love. And it’s something you could, should and must do!