Have you caught yourself thinking, Idon’t want to allow my child to buy toys while shopping for groceries, eventhough you have already given into that unreasonable demand more often thannot? And this despite making an agreement with him/her that there will be notoy shopping when you left the house? If you are, then you can empathize withmy situation. One of the biggest struggles parents face, I have realized, afterpondering over my own situation, and subsequently discussing it with friendsand peers, is saying “no” to our children. And I don’t mean the kind of No thatgives children a window of opportunity to argue and eventually get their way,but the kind of No that says the issue is final-no negotiating.
For many of us, from the moment ourchildren are born, we cannot imagine the day we would ever scream or holler atsuch a perfect little angel. Fast forward to the terrible two’s and you findthat your once perfect baby has transstrikeed into an absolute nightmare. And as theygrow up, dealing with pre teens and adolescence can leave you feeling like youhardly have a choice in the matter.
However, over the recent past, myrefusals have not only been a cause of stress for my 4 year old, but for metoo. As a working parent, one is already laden with guilt because of having tospend time apart from the child, add to that the distress of watching your 4year old pouting his lips and looking at you teary eyed when you refuse tofulfill his/her unreasonable demands, and the agony is doubled.
This is when I began to questionmyself, is it our generation that is not equipped to say no? After all ourparents didn’t seem to struggle while laying down the law! Furthermore, asadults we find ourselves dealing with “no” on a regular basis. For example:“No, there are no tables without a reservation” or “No, you have to wait yourturn” and there are signs all over our landscape with messages that read “nosmoking” or ” no parking”. Then why is it that we find it so hard to say thesevery words to our children, and prepare them to face the reality that they arebund to eventually. After a lot of research and some insightful discussionswith friends and family, I finally figured a few things I could do to make myNo more effective and ensure less resistance too. And if you too are in asimilar situation like mine, I’m sure these tips could come handy, the nexttime you want to assert the rules with your child:
- Offer alternatives: One of the best advices I came across was to introduce alternatives when one needs to negate a child’s behavior or request. Through a careful use of other options parents can take the sting out of a flat “no” and lead both themselves and their child peacefully away from a full blown confrontation. For example, instead of saying to a child “No, you can’t watch television” and ending up in a possible screaming match where everyone is a loser, it’s smarter to say “I’d rather you didn’t watch television so how about making a puzzle with me.
- Say Yes, to make your No more meaningful: Although this concept seems contradictory, it actually is quite effective. Keep a tab on how often you say “no” compared to how often the say “yes”. If you find yourself saying “no” a disproportionate number of times, it may be time to consider how frequently you are saying “no” simply out of habit or for personal convenience. How often, in other words, do you say “no” because it means that you don’t have to interrupt whatever you’re doing or don’t have to get up off the sofa. I tried this, and I realized I do say no more than I really need to!
- Allow your child to say No: Some parents become troubled by how often their child, even when very young, says “no” in response to adult or sibling direction. Some parents even tell children not to say “no”. However, contrary to popular belief, encouraging a child to kindly but firmly, say “no” to things that seem inappropriate, may teach him/her the value of refusal and its importance. For example, while dealing with friends, or even a pet, shows him that just as he is pleased with them when they listen to him, he too is pleasing mom and dad when he listens to them.
- Set clear rules/expectations: For preschoolers and older children, set clear rules and make sure they understand what they are. You can have rules like: “You must hold my hand while walking on the road.”
- Praise and notice children when their behavior is acceptable: If children only hear when they are doing things wrong, they may continue to do them if that is the only way they get attention. Point out instances when they are behaving positively: “I see you are cleaning up now that you are done. That’s great.”
- Focus on the behavior, not the child: When your child does something you don’t like, make sure you focus on the behavior as being unacceptable. Don’t use language such as “You’re bad”. That just makes her feel bad and she can start to believe she is bad. What you want her to know is that particular behavior is ‘bad,’ and that she shouldn’t do it anymore.
- Be consistent in the rules and consequences you set: Teach your child consequences. Once you set some rules and expectations, make sure you always follow-up on them if your child does not go along. For example if your child is not sharing his toys with his/her siblings you can assert yourself by saying that “If you do not want to take turns and share the toy with your sister, you will not have a chance to play with it again today.” But make sure you follow up on that promise, or else your child will just try to arm twist you the next time a similar situation arises.
While these tips seem like a greatstarting point to inculcate some discipline in your child’s life, they are alsohandy to help you keep your self in check from being over indulgent too. At theend of the day, it’s important to make a conscious effort to take a few minutesand think about how you handle saying no to your child or even how often. Takestock in the values you hold dear and want to teach them, and ask yourself ifyou’re working toward that goal. Learn to talk to your children and explain whyyou’re saying no (that it’s not a punishment) – and what you are trying toteach them from it. I intend to start working in this direction, what aboutyou?