Its OK to Say No

In the last 20 years we've all been introduced to a new style of parenting that is much more democratic than most of us experienced, growing up. Families are more child- centered than they were before, we no longer advocate spanking as an effective form of discipline, we often allow children to negotiate for privileges or things, and we're much more involved in our children's lives than most of our parents were in our lives. Parenting is much, much less autocratic than it was in previous generations.

As with many other changes we make over time, sometimes we take a good thing too far and it no longer serves the purpose it was intended. Offering choices, using natural and logical consequences, and using a kinder tone in our voice are all excellent tools to achieve desirable results. However, often we forget that it's still OK to simply say "no" when a child asks for something we consider unreasonable. They might be asking for a toy that is not suitable for their age or is beyond your budget. They might already have more toys than they can possible use. They might be asking to go somewhere and you know you don't have the time or energy to take them there. They might be asking for a sleep-over or for a friend to come over to play and you're simply not in the mood. You have the right as a parent to say no and then leave it at that. We don't have to always give long explanations as to why they can't have something or go somewhere. We don't even have to raise our voice. A simple, "No, not today" is enough. If we let them, they'll try and manipulate us with cries, whines, temper tantrums and any number of other ways to get us to change our mind. If we ultimately do change our mind to please them, we've essentially taught them that they can control us to get what they want. How do you stop your child from manipulating you into changing your mind? First of all, believe in yourself. Know that you know what is best for both you and your child and it's not in anyone's best interest if you give in. Also, tell yourself that you're not going to get hooked and simply walk away or change the subject. Children are very skilled at making us feel guilty. Remember that children that have unclear boundaries are less secure than those that have clear boundaries.

Now that you know it's fine to say no, it doesn't mean that you can't change your mind. If you've said no to something and later change your mind after you've thought about it, it's OK to go back to your child and say: "You know, I've been thinking about what you were asking about and I've changed my mind." We don't want to be doing that all the time, but changing your mind doesn't make you an indecisive parent. Who doesn't change their mind now and again? Remember, we're human.

Barbara Desmarais
Parenting and Life Coach
[email protected]

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