I’ve heard a good amount of conflicting information about the impact of saying “no” to children. Now, I don’t think anyone would argue the need to stop a child from stepping into the street or touching a hot pan on the stove. There’s a good deal of discourse, though, about the right and wrong ways to respond when our children ask for (or demand) time, attention, or toys, or are behaving in a way that needs to be stopped.
While one expert expounds on the necessity of parents asserting authority and reinforcing firm boundaries, another warns of the devastatingly negative impact to a child’s self-esteem of denying kids their thoughts, opinions, and desires. As with many other philosophies in the parenting world, I feel like we are set up to feel guilty no matter where we stand on the issue.
Just in my circle of family and friends, I see divergent beliefs. Some parents work very hard to avoid saying “no” to their children. These parents aren’t pushovers, but they believe there is something inherently damaging about the word. They distract their toddler when they see the telltale gleam in her eye when staring at the dog’s food or when she’s demanding chips for dinner. They are quick to praise good deeds as a way to elicit only good behavior. And, they ask their kids why they want to do or have whatever it is they are asking for in order to understand the child’s point of view. The child eventually tires of the conversation and moves on to something else.
I also know parents who seem afraid to say no to their kids. They worry their children won’t love them if they are constantly denying them, stating life is too short not to experience simple and inconsequential joys. These parents are usually the same ones who appease their children in order to avoid anything “ugly” in front of other people. As long as the kids get what they want, there is no crying, whining time outs, etc.
Still others feel like “no” is almost an automatic response no matter the question. My husband and I fall into this category. We know we should be in charge and entered parenthood prepared for that authoritative job. We even knew our precious offspring would try to manipulate us – that’s what kids do – and we were poised and ready for the challenge. What we weren’t prepared for was all the gray area, blurred lines, and being so very tired! Lately we’ve been wondering whether our “nos” are always necessary or whether we sometimes take the easy way out instead of doing our kids justice by thinking critically about each situation.
I am not a parenting expert; I’m simply a parent trying to do right by my kids and stay sane in the process. I believe in positive reinforcement and parenting from a place of love and acceptance. I also think saying “no” is absolutely necessary. I believe this is the first step to teaching my children how to say “no” to themselves and others when something isn’t right – socially, morally, or legally. Down the road, when they are faced with life’s temptations, I want them to be able to use their own “no.” I try to remember that today’s second cookie quickly and easily turns into tomorrow’s far riskier choice. Continue reading The Plight Of The All-Noing Parent