“No” is a magic word, but don’t use it sparingly. Use it regularly. It can be tough to say at first, especially if you are not practiced, but once you get through the initial discomfort, you will be happy you did.
“Yes” rolls off the tongue more easily; it’s quick and controversy-free, but what are you teaching your children when you say yes to every request simply because you don’t have the energy for a battle or the time for debate?
Adults often have difficulty saying “no” to their peers, let alone their children, so practice using it in many different situations to become more comfortable with it. Children need to feel disappointment or they will grow up to expect everything to go their way all the time. It sounds harsh, but it really makes sense. Next time your child hounds you for something, say no and stay firm, then sit back and watch what happens. There may be some whining, moping and general discontent, but they will get over it! And you’ll be surprised at how quickly they move on. Start with simple things like saying no to chocolate cookies for snack time, and watch how suddenly crackers and almond butter seem to satisfy when the hunger really kicks in. Deny them screen time after school and observe a few minutes later as they begin to create masterpieces on their Rainbow Looms.
Saying no builds character, ingenuity and resilience. We know that kids learn by emulating their parents, so what happens when parents say yes to everything? What does this teach? They learn that it’s easiest to take the path of least resistance, to avoid conflict and to be accommodating – definitely not the lessons to give when trying to raise well-equipped, freethinking members of society. Sometimes your child needs you to say no for her, because she wants help making a tough decision. Have you ever noticed the look of relief on your child’s face when you finally say no to something that you have both been agonizing over? She really wasn’t ready to go to that sleepover with eight other girls, half of whom she didn’t even know, but she didn’t feel comfortable saying no to her best friend who was pressuring her.
Until she is emotionally and developmentally better equipped to make major decisions on her own, it’s your job to step in and say no for her in these situations. So go ahead and try it, or stay with it if “no” is already a part of your daily vocabulary. Parenting seems thankless at times, but with perseverance, small triumphs are what keep you going.
By Kristen Wint