“No” may be a difficult thing for a parent to tell their child. Sometimes, it is out of frustration and exhaustion of saying “no” so many times to no avail. But other times, it can be difficult for other reasons too. Saying “no” is important though, especially since parents need to set clear boundaries for children so that they need to learn how to deal with frustration, how to cope with boundaries and expectations, and other aspects of life and behavior that will affect them as adults later on.
Children are constantly learning, asking questions, and pushing their boundaries. This is how they learn how to behave and when, so not setting clear boundaries can be detrimental. Saying “no” or setting limits later on may not take, and children may not have a firm grasp on concepts that should dictate their behavior, whether it is how to act in society or how to behave around others.
This may be difficult for parents with busy schedules. If you’ve exhausted your no’s, you may feel tempted to give in “just this once,” so you can relax and get on with your day. This line of thinking is understandable: not only are you tired, but you don’t want what little time you have with your children to be defined by bickering, arguing, and disappointment. However, giving in to a child’s every wish or demand can have consequences further down the road, and it can play a huge and difficult reverse effect on their sense of entitlement as well as how they interact with others.
Children who tend to get everything that they want also tend to be children who have a hard time interacting with or playing well with others. There is a certain “give and take” that they may not understand. Additionally, without any sense of delayed gratification, children may continue to have difficulties dealing with real-world problems because they are so used to getting what they want exactly when they want it.
But sometimes, simply saying “no” isn’t enough. Saying “no” and being clear about it is one thing, but it is also important for parents to understand where clarification may be necessary.
Saying “No” Without Actually Saying “No”
Sometimes, simply stating that a child cannot have or do something is enough, but many parents also understand that it can also lead to a tantrum or a constant barrage of questions. There are other ways to say “no” to something without actually saying the word, and it can help your child deal with things like waiting, delayed gratification, and simply being self-sufficient as well.
Finding an appropriate redirect is a great tactic. If a child asks for (or asks to do) one thing, you can turn them down by suggesting that they do something else instead. Choosing empowers children and makes them feel that their opinions are worth something. They will not feel ignored if they get to decide. Occupying their minds with something else is often a great distraction and can help you avoid a tantrum.
Even the use of other phrases can help, too. If you can say “maybe some other time,” or “maybe tomorrow/later,” or even simply “not today,” children may get the clarification they need to understand the “no” implied, but remain satisfied with knowing that what they want can be had or done at another time instead.
Do Not Give False Hopes
If phrases such as “not now,” “later,” etc. are used, be sure to keep your word because then it shows to your children you can’t be trusted, which can impact your relationship, and they could develop trust issues. Give a concrete period that your child can expect to have their wish granted. For example: “Not now, darling. We will buy that for your birthday.”
Respect Their Privacy
Do not embarrass your child in front of other people. Get their attention, go to a private place and clearly communicate your reasons for saying “no.” Disrespecting them in public can make your child resent you, especially if other people make fun of them. Remember, if you embarrass your child in public, they will learn to do the same to you!
Be On the Same Page
Sometimes one parent will say “no”, only to see the child go to the other parent for a “yes.” This can cause conflict between parents and create a manipulative habit in your child. Be sure to communicate with one another before answering your child.