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Saying No to Your Kids

August 16, 2020 | by Dini Harris

Kids know that sometimes no doesn't actually mean no. It means let's drive our parents crazy until they give in.

Just say "no."

That's it.

I could really end the article right here, except that I know that some parents are thinking, No way, my kids don't know what 'no' means.

It's true that at times when we say "no" to our children, they act as if they don't know what the word means. They ask again, and again, and yet again. They nudge and they whine. They tell us that everybody else in their class is going on the trip and that everybody else is wearing high-priced designer sneakers. They play on our guilt, telling us that we're in the wrong for depriving them of the very necessities of a happy life.

Sometimes they nudge us so much and make us feel so guilty that we surrender and give them what they want.

In other words, our kids know that sometimes no doesn't actually mean no. It means let's drive our parents crazy until they give in.

We need to teach our children that no means no. And much of that unpleasant whining, griping and bellyaching will be eliminated.

We need to teach our children that no means no. And much of that unpleasant whining, griping and bellyaching will be eliminated.

The way to do is to have full confidence in our "no."

We are only flummoxed by our children's whining and complaining if we’re not sure if our "no" is reasonable.

As parents, we are in charge of running our home and setting the tone. We’re in charge of instilling our home with moral values, earning money and sticking to a budget, and arranging the family's schedule.

It is from this position of responsibility and obligation that we decide what we can let our children buy and what we should let them do.

We take this position seriously, so we think before we say "no."

If they're asking for something appropriate, we're happy to give it to them. If we're not sure if their request is suitable, we tell them that we need to think about it or talk it over with our spouse. And if necessary, reach out for guidance and advice.

Perhaps the fancy briefcase is pricey, but maybe a fashionable briefcase would encourage this particular child to apply himself to his schoolwork. Perhaps you stick to an eleven o'clock curfew, but this time the party your daughter wants to attend will be supervised by capable adults.

After you think it through, you're ready to give an answer. And if it’s a no, you say no strongly and confidently. You're sure that your refusal is justified. There's no wishy-washiness.

In general, our children are wise enough to recognize when we really mean no. Usually, when they understand that we mean what we say, they'll accept our decision. They may grumble a little bit but they don't repeat their request because they know they’ve received a final answer.

There may be times, especially if it's one of the first times that they're hearing a real no, that our children misconstrue our "no" and set off on a loud, annoying whining and griping exhibition. If this happens, change the subject. You can calmly say, “I already gave you an answer, I'm not discussing this topic anymore.” Then move on to something else.

The whining and griping will stop because the child will perceive that your no was real and the case is closed.

Only change your decision if you're sure that it's the right thing to do – and not just to quiet annoying children.

Sometimes you make a decision arbitrarily, without thought: You're cooking dinner and your son runs inside and asks if he could go to the park with the neighbor. Without thinking too much, you say "no."

Your son asks again. This time think about it: is it or is it not a convenient time for him to go to the park with a neighbor? If it is, you can change your mind.

Sometimes your children repeat their request but with added information. They tell you that the trip is being chaperoned or that the sneakers are on sale. You can use this information to rethink – and if appropriate change your "no" into a "yes."

For effective parenting only change a "no" into a "yes" if there's respectable conversation about the issue, not because of whining, griping and complaining.

It might take practice to reach a firm decision and stick to it steadfastly in spite of your children's wishes and wants. But once you do, everything will be much smoother and easier.

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