Did you know that for every “YES” parents say to a child the average parent says 10 “NO’s”? Well something like that. Watch yourself today, tomorrow, listen to your co-parent. Initially this claim seemed shocking, but after observing myself on a day when I was with the kids all day, I found it to be sadly true. Even if the statistics are wrong, I know in my day “NO’s” surpass “YES”. I know I am not alone. By all means we want to say “YES” but time, and daily obstacles don’t allow us too, for each request! And the more children you have the more requests you get. It just isn’t possible (and we need to provide boundaries for our children).
But who likes to be told “no”? Do you? Does your six year old? How about your toddler? After years working in residential treatment centers with emotionally and behaviorally disturbed children and teens, I should know better! Responding to a request with a flat “no” can escalate quickly to tantrum-ville or worse. And on a good day I do know better, but find me sleep deprived, rushed, battling a long “to do” list , and you will hear more “No’s” then are effective. So what to do? We can not say “yes” all the time. My kids want candy for breakfast, TV on school nights, one more chapter at bedtime, trips to the amusement park, play dates 24/7…. While the answer may remain “no” we, the adult, the parent, can chose to deliver the message much more effectively and avoid getting into a power struggle out of the gate.
My son “Can we go the Enchanted Forest today?” Me, on a tired day, “No, it is too far away, we are not going.” Son, “But why? When can we, it is fun, we never get to go, we never do anything fun.” Whining commences. I bristle and begin grasping for all the reasons we can’t/aren’t going. He throws out all his reasons why we must go, why he deserves to go, why I should take him, tears, drama, the works… He gets locked into his position, and I get locked into defending mine. Not an ideal pattern for parent and child communication.
My respsonse on a mindful parenting day, “That sure was fun when we went there on our way to Grandma’s house! What was your favorite part?” Son, “Yeah, I liked XYZ!” Me, “I liked ABC. I hope we can go again when Daddy can come too, then you can go on the roller coaster!” “Hey, do you want to help me make cookies right now?”
I have been trying to deliver “NO” in a different way, so it’s not as likely to lead to power struggles.
My toddler daughter: “Mommy can we paint? “ as she is already getting out brushes and paper. Me, on a mindful parenting day: (sitting down at her level and giving her 100% of my attention) “Wow great idea! Painting is so fun, and your so good at it! Right now mommy has to get dinner cooking, would you like to help?” Daughter, “Yeah, help with dinner!” And she is off her chair running to the kitchen.
Notice that while the message was still that we are not painting right now, I never had to say “NO”. In my reply I have, made her feel great, she had a wonderful idea! And I asked her for help, giving her some one on one time. Also I was careful to avoid committing to painting later, because if I cannot I would be breaking a promise.
Try to say “YES” a little more often or say “NO” a little differently to our children! It is in the delivery. Validate their request first, acknowledge their desires, ideas, creativity, while holding the boundary firmly. See if you can side step the power struggles.
And sometimes “NO” is the best answer and then of course don’t be afraid to use it! The world does not spare your child from hearing “no”, and you will not be preparing him or her fairly if they never learn to accept “no”.
Your thoughts or experiences with “no”?
Be the best parent you can with the tools you have, and always seek new tools!
Until next time, Rachel