Permission To Say "No" To Your Child
Yes, there are certain times when it’s okay and actually it’s recommended to say “No” to your child.
I have heard many parents say “Oh, they are too young to understand that.” I don’t think people give their children enough credit. They are very smart and can grasp many critical concepts at a very young age. As soon I received the first indication that my daughter could understand me, I began teaching her fundamental social skills like how to be courteous, respectful, and thoughtful to me. As she got older and tried to test her boundaries (because this is what human beings do) I would say to her “Listen my love, this relationship is a two way street; I treat you with respect and kindness and I expect to be treated the same way.”
When my daughter was about a year old, I started my first playgroup in our neighborhood. It was a wonderful experience and I’m grateful I was able to meet these wonderful women. We were able to exchange parenting tips, talk about our relationships, and give each other much-needed support.
I noticed many parents around me had difficulty saying “No” to their children. Or they would just ignore certain behaviors that I felt needed immediate redirection or correction in order for the child to understand that what they were doing was incorrect, or unacceptable. How is a child supposed to understand these life lessons if their parents don’t teach them?
It amazed me how they let their children do, say, and have whatever they wanted with no restrictions. At our playgroups, I used this as an opportunity to teach my child how to interact with other children. That included learning how to play in a group setting, how to communicate effectively, and how to be courteous and respectful to others. And yes, at times, that may require saying "No" to your children.
At playgroup, Carter (our resident “biter”) was never reprimanded for biting the other children. So instead of correcting the behavior in some obvious way so Carter knew biting was wrong, his mom Vicky simply carried antibiotic ointment with her and applied it to each child that was bitten by her son. I watched this happen several times to other children. All the moms would talk about it but they never confronted Vicky about their concerns.
That changed the day my daughter was bitten. After months of watching other children cry when Carter mistook them for a tasty treat, my daughter fell victim. I finally spoke up and told Vicky that Carter needed stop biting the other children or he won’t be invited back to playgroup. And then there were crickets.
Not one of those other mothers that had been complaining about the “biting situation” for months spoke up on behalf of their children or in defense of my decision. Was I being too harsh? It just seemed to me that if a child was acting out in this way, it was up to the parent to help the child understand that this behavior will not be tolerated. But that would mean the dreadful task of saying “No.” Vicky had her hands full with two other children and another on the way so she came to playgroup sporadically but when she did, (after our discussion) she was much more aware of Carter and kept a closer eye on him. He never got the chance to bite anyone again.
Sasha, another child in our playgroup, decided she didn’t want to share certain toys so she took those toys and stuffed them behind her mom in the folds of my couch. Debbie (Sasha’s mom) just laughed and thought it was funny, while I’m over here trying to teach my child fairness and sharing. Now if these were Sasha’s toys and she didn’t want anyone playing with them, I understand. She should leave those toys at home. However, she did this with everyone’s toys.
Erin, a friend’s daughter, always felt the need to interrupt her mother and I when we were trying to have a conversation. Picture eight small kids running around screaming and playing, spilling juice, crying, pooping their diaper; and then picture four moms in the midst of all this chaos trying to coffee clutch and stammer through a 15-second conversation. Erin’s timing was perfect and when her mother Carrie and I started a conversation, in that instant, Erin would interrupt. Instead of teaching Erin to be courteous and wait until her mother was done talking, Carrie’s full attention immediately shifted to her child and our conversation came to a screeching halt time and time again.
I’ve heard other parents say things like “I’m glad when I hear that my child is courteous when they are at other people’s homes…at least I’ve done something right.” While they admit that their child is not courteous and respectful to them in their own home. Love and respect go hand-in-hand and it starts at home.
Saying “No” to your child and teaching them to be courteous and respectful is critical to their individual happiness, and the happiness and harmony of the family unit. I’ve seen the struggles these parents have had with these particular children. I believe these struggles could have been avoided if they would have simply taught their children fundamental social skills, which in some cases would have required them to say "No" to their child once in a while.
Children thrive in a predictable world so when they know their boundaries, they are happier and more content. As they move into the teen years you will be grateful for the boundaries you have established because it will be much easier to maintain a healthy relationship built on respect and love.
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