Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Just say "no"


It’s okay to say ‘no’ to your children without the negative consequences
Quite often I’ll meet mums who give me suggestions for future articles, and one of the most common requests is “how to say no to children”.
Before I became a parent, I didn’t think there was such a thing as parents who didn’t use the word “no”.
It just seemed like common sense to me. If a child asks for something they can’t have, just say “no”.
But then I met parents who found it incredibly hard to say “no” to their children for many various reasons.

It’s also something encouraged in the childcare industry, where carers are instructed to negotiate with children and give them choices, rather than say “no”.
I think parents can strike a balance between the two views, if they work hard at it, and most importantly listen to their kids.
Adults are told “no” all the time... no parking, no smoking, no shoes/no service... the list goes on.
Children should learn too, that even though life can be a very positive experience, they will be told “no” at some stage and they’ll have to learn to accept it.
No one likes to hear the word “no” because it creates feelings of disappointment.
For some people it can generate a feeling of rejection, and parents who link this connection find it hard to say “no” to their children.
But saying “no” and explaining to a child that they cannot always have their way, does not mean they are not loved.
There are many reasons we find it hard to say “no” to our children, and we’re all guilty of this at some time or other.
We want to protect our children from disappointment; protect ourselves from facing our child’s anger or disappointment; avoid the responsibilities of making a decision about an issue; we want our child’s approval or to be his/her friend; and we want to keep times with our children free from conflict.
Some parents who say “no” but don’t enforce it and give in too soon, are sending mixed messages to their kids about what they can or cannot do.
Some parents avoid saying “no” in order to avoid tantrums or power struggles, but handling disappointment requires your child to also develop coping skills.
In a previous column, I’ve talked about teaching your child how to understand and cope when they have feelings of anger, frustration or disappointment.
If you never say “no” to your child, then they will not experience these negative feelings and learn how to manage them.
Subsequently, children who only ever hear “yes” will grow up with unrealistic expectations of the world around them.
Sure, it’s easier to say “yes” to keep them happy or keep them quiet, but the child will see your lack of patience, they will become spoiled, they don’t learn to appreciate what they have and instead learn how to manipulate in order to get what they want.
In later life, this sort of child lacks motivation to work for what they want because they feel entitled to it.
Children need to be told “no” in order to understand boundaries, and develop reasonable expectations of themselves, parents, teachers and friends.
But it’s important the use the word “no” in the right way.
If children hear the word “no” in a loud, angry voice, then they’ll always have a negative response to the word.
If it is said in a calm, caring way, you’re more likely to get a co-operative response.
You can avoid using the word “no” by trying alternatives, or giving your child other choices. 
For example, instead of saying “no, you cannot watch television”, try saying “I’d rather you didn’t watch television so how about we go to the park together?”
Another example is to offer a “yes” by simply changing the time frame.
For example, “no, you cannot watch television now, but you may watch Playschool after nap time”.
Suggesting alternative activities or times, children will find it much easier to accept the initial “no” response.
If you find yourself saying “no” far too often, it may be time to consider why.
Are you saying “no” out of habit or convenience? Or does saying “no” mean you don’t have to interrupt what you are doing and spend more time with your child?
Children should really hear a lot more “yes” responses from parents during the day.
If all your child hears is “no”, they may become less able to differentiate between a habitual “no” and a really important one.
They will start to believe that it isn’t worth asking permission anymore and this does not bode well for the teenage years.
If you say “no” too much, then it’s time to start listening more to your children.
If you listen more, you are more able to work out reasonable and logical responses, and hopefully give your child choices.
Parents should also teach children to say “no”, especially when they are in danger.
Allow your children to say “no” to choices when they are offered, such as what clothes to wear each day, or what games to play.
If they are taught how to say “no” in a respectful manner, they will also learn how to say it appropriately in the future.

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