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How to say “no”

Monday, December 7th, 2009 by:

We love our children and want the best for them. But in our rush to give them all the things they want, we may actually be robbing them of important coping skills.

Too often the more children get, the more they want and the less they appreciate what they get. It’s the reason so many of our basements are filled with mountains of toys that are never played with.

Where does it end, and how can we bring things back into balance? Saying “no” is hard–but if you think it’s hard now, wait until they’re 16 and wanting co-ed sleepovers, or expect you to buy alcohol for their parties (a common practice these days.) Saying “no” doesn’t get easier, it gets harder.

And if every road is smoothed, every desire gratified, every disappointment made up for, children come not only to expect this, but have fewer skills to handle disappointments or losses when they do arise. We essentially get in the way of them developing the emotional hardware necessary to handle what life throws at them, making it difficult for them to bounce back, cope with stress, and learn from mistakes later in life. We may be solving difficult behaviors in the short term by giving in, but creating bigger problems for our children and ourselves later.

Getting everything they want even most of the time can affect your child’s ability to appreciate and care for things, to learn to control that urge for immediate gratification, or to know the joy of earning something she has worked for. To prevent that from happening, here are a few tips to help you say “no:”

Tips for saying no:

• Stay neutral and clearly say “no” to your child. Don’t say “maybe” or “we’ll see.” Say “no” if you mean no and stick to it.
• If your child gets angry and has a tantrum, stay calm and tell your child that you love them enough for them to be mad at you. That you wouldn’t be a good parent if you said “yes” to everything. They will make noise and have a fit, but don’t get sucked in. They will give up when they believe you.
• Never give in to a tantrum or whining for the toy, item or activity they have requested. This rewards the behavior and guarantees its return.
• Use a neutral but confident voice–if you don’t believe yourself, they won’t believe you either.
• Talk to them about others who are less fortunate–ask them to set aside some toys or new gifts that they can give to charity.
• Know that you are helping them develop the life skills they need to handle disappointments in life. It’s important for them to know that they can do this, that they are strong enough.
• Help them create mindful and responsible consumer habits by talking about choices and modeling the difference between wanting something and needing something.
• Help them consider the advertising they are being exposed to–teach them to question it and discuss it.

Jennifer Kolari is a child and parent therapist, and found of Connected Parenting. For more information you can contact jennifer at info@connectedparenting.com or visit www.connectedparenting.com.

4 Responses to “How to say “no””

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