How to say no to your children

Saying no to your children

*This is a guest post

Most parents would probably agree that it is so much more fun to say yes rather than saying no to your children. As a mother of two, I delight in giving my children what they want and need. The problem lies in the fact that what I know they need and what they believe they need are usually two entirely different ideas.

We were all born into this world with a “ME” mentality. Children do not have to be taught to think and desire to please themselves at all times. If you’ve ever spent any time around a toddler, that is immediately apparent.

That is why attempting to parent without the proper skills, boundaries and a healthy mindset will only lead to feelings of guilt, frustration, and a lifetime of your child learning the word “no” the hard way. Some parents may have experienced healthy boundaries as a child and grew to understand the power of balanced parenting. Others need to learn it as a skill.

Big picture thinking

I often hear parents complaining of their lack of control over their own children. What they haven’t considered is their child is only responding to them as any child naturally would.

The power of manipulation starts very early on. That sweet, adorable toddler has those manipulation strategies down pat and will use them as often as necessary. Their skills of manipulation only grow stronger with more experience as they get older. Especially if it seems to be working out for them!

Have you ever agreed to something for your child that you really didn’t want to, and later regretted? Maybe you agreed because they simply wore you out from asking 827 times, or you just didn’t have the energy to say “no” and deal with the backlash.

You wouldn’t be alone, however, as a core influencer in your child’s life, denying them the experience of accepting the reality of limitations is a disservice. This disservice will result in a lifetime of not respecting other’s “no”. And possibly experiencing a difficult time implementing their own “no” when it is necessary in life.

Consider the source

It’s fun and rewarding to answer “Yes!” to your children. I love to respond with that answer every opportunity I can. Yes, you can have as many grapes as you want for snack! Yes, you can wear that crazy outfit you picked out today! Yes, you can play a little longer with your friends! Bless them with love, hugs and goodness all day long is my mantra.

But have you ever noticed that EVERYTHING is a dire emergency to a child, or sooooo very important to them in that particular moment? They simply aren’t capable of seeing the big picture as a parent would.

Why would a snack right before dinner be a problem? Why would staying up late even be an issue? Consider the Source. We shouldn’t always expect our children to understand the wisdom and reasonings resulting in our “no” response and that…is…OK! You also aren’t required to always provide an explanation for every “no” you provide! The adult/child line is entirely too blurry in this time we live in.  

With so many parents trying to be their child’s friend instead of an effective parent, it’s not possible to simultaneously fulfil the voice of reason, guidance and direction that your child desperately needs from you.

Saying no to your children: Let your “No” be “No”

Have you ever answered a child’s request with “no” several times and then followed it up with an “ok fine” or “whatever, please just stop asking”? Me too!

But think of this reaction from a child’s point of view….they put in the work and received their reward. Their brain’s reward system will surely remind them to put in the same effort next time they want something we have denied, because, after all, it worked!

Think about it, if your “no” doesn’t seem to be working today, why would you expect it to work if you screamed “NO!!!” as your young child sprinted across a busy street into a car”? 

When laying down boundaries with a child that may not be accustomed to it, get ready for that backlash, ‘cause it might not be pretty. That reaction to your “no” in the grocery store or at a restaurant might result in a loud and obnoxious meltdown. Don’t forsake the bigger picture.

The end result

When given the opportunity to take the stand or give in to a demanding and unrelenting strong-willed child, we have to consider how our response will impact the future man or women your child will become.

Will responding with a “no” serve your child in the long run even though he/she may react with anger and tears at that moment? For the children who are not used to responding respectfully to your “no”, how would they know and understand how to respect someone elses’ boundaries?

Being raised as a very experienced people-pleaser, I personally learned the concept of boundaries primarily through failure and years of tears and frustration. When you are not accustomed to seeing boundaries as examples in your own life, the idea of a healthy boundary is foreign and unrecognizable.

The importance of hearing and responding to “no” as a child also provides them with a positive example and the ability for them to stand up in situations as they grow older and need to be able to say “no” to others. The lack of this learned skill can even be detrimental to your child.

Mum, if you need a sign to tell you child “NO” today, well here is your sign! Don’t be afraid to start saying no to your children. You got this.

Author bio

Leah Prentice has a passion to share helpful tools and experiences in navigating everyday parenting life. Her practical, yet effective approach stems from a long background in Business Management. The engaging and useful material she shares is always worth the read. Connect with her on Instagram.

Picture credit: Girl photo created by freepik – www.freepik.com

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