Gary's blog for couples and parents plus resources for individuals, leaders and churches.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Just Say NO - Sometimes

Jackie and I were shopping just a few days after Christmas and saw a mom debating with her young daughter about whether she was going to buy her a new toy or not.  Maybe I didn't have all the facts but I'm thinking, "Hmm, is this really an issue right after the biggest gift giving day of the year?"

It's not easy to say "no," is it, to the longings, loves and likes of the kids we love?  However, it's important that we make sure this little two- letter word is somewhere in our vocabulary. Kids need to know that life doesn't give them everything and that their desires aren't always wise nor the most important need in the family.

Why don't we say "no," at least some of the time?  It's likely because we don't want our kids mad at us or we think that they'll love us less when we're tough on them. Perhaps we had very harsh parents ourselves and we hate the thought of our kids experiencing the same kind of treatment from us.

Often a non-custodial parent will do more for a child than they would normally because they don't see that child often and want to somehow make it up to them. As a result they give them whatever they want.  Yes, sometimes it's easier to just give in. Don't go there.

Children can subtly begin to think that the more they beg, plead and coerce the more they'll get.  But is that how life works?  Of course not, so why teach our kids that it does?  When we turn down their inappropriate, though natural, requests we set up healthy boundaries that will help them make wise decisions and enjoy the good times even more.

But let me suggest a couple of guidelines.  First, don't say "no''all the time or more than you say yes if possible. When we first moved into a new house I had a tendency to do that.  I didn't want the walls marked or windows scratched so I was constantly saying, "Don't move that there," or "No, you can't sit too close to that," or whatever.  My wife finally had to say to me, "Do you know that all you say to your son these days is no?  Oops.  "No" must be one of many responses we give our kids but not the most prevalent one.

Second, say "no" calmly and firmly but not harshly.  Say it as though that is of course your answer on that issue and that life will move on just fine. Don't turn the situation into a battle.  Often a fight begins because we were simply harsher than we needed to be or used language that was more condemning than simply communicating.  You can turn down their request without being angry or demeaning.

Third, when you can decide ahead of time what you will say "no" to. There are lots of gray areas for parents that you won't always have a clear answer on but there are some that should be obvious.  For example, when a child is trying to play parents against each other, your first answer should probably be no until you find out more from the other parent. When they are clearly being demanding of their own way it's probably time to put the brakes on no matter what the issue is.

Finally, look them in the eye and make sure they heard you. This is especially true for young children.  "What did mommy or daddy just say?"  Or for the older ones, "Let's be clear on this, son.  What is it that we've agreed to here?"

You'll have to decide what works best but remember that "no" isn't a dirty word. Just use it wisely.
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

Gary is currently a consultant, teacher, speaker and chaplain providing resources for families, leaders and churches.

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