What is it about 'No' that you don't understand?

Boy saying no to momOf course kids are disappointed when parents deny a request. Yet, life would be dull if every wish came true. No more sense of accomplishment, or creativity, or contentment!

We all want happy kids, so many of us give children what they want.  Yet very soon, kids are asking for more!  "Demanding-ness” (the persistent pursuit of a goal despite the cost to a relationship) eats up contentment.  (Picture PacMac.)  Invest in strong family relationships by saying "No" and sticking to it.

Change starts with YOU

“Every family develops routines to handle situations where parents give a no answer.” say Dr. Scott Turansky and nurse Joanne Miller. It doesn’t matter who is “right.” If your family is stuck in a negative routine, someone has to initiate the new behaviour. Chez nous, that someone is usually me!  My kids officially requested it via the annual job  "Mom, go to your room to calm down when you are angry."  Since their demanding-ness got my fuse on fire, I've learned to calm down and rethink my responses.

When “No” is good

If we can’t refuse our kids a request, then why should they limit themselves? How will they learn to ward off bullying, drugs, pornography…? Let's arm ourself with perspective to build confidence. Setting limits is a parent's job. When my kids play the Bad-parents-say-'No'-game, I put the onus back on them: “What is it about ‘No’ that you don’t understand?”

Guide the kids to “Yes”

Turansky and Miller's insights have helped me transfer my children’s focus from their unsatisfied wish to their true desire—contentment. When my kids are demanding, they are miserable: they argue, badger, or whine. When they choose thankfulness, smiles light up their faces again. Help children count their blessings:

- “Yes, we’ll talk…after you have obeyed.” Some kids want to argue. Arguing is “when the issue is more important than the people discussing it.” Turansky and Miller remind parents that the right time to discuss is rarely in the heat of the moment. “Please, go to bed now. Tomorrow morning, we’ll talk about changing bedtime.” Then follow up.

- “The answer to that SAME question is still ‘No’. For ‘Do you love me?’ It’s still ‘yes’.” Help the badgering (continuously nagging) child realize nagging is hurtful to your relationship. Invite her to look up a badger in the dictionary (it’s a non-stop digging critter) and compare her behaviour to one. Consider naming a badger and smilingly calling his name when this behaviour points its nose. Talking in these playful codes is more fun and more effective than lectures.
- “Yes, I can give you less.” Whining is words and body language that mean “I want more.” Sometimes we need help to see all that we already have. “No, Jerome. We're not getting toys today. (whine) If you don’t like your toys, let me free you of them.” “That’s not what I meant…..”

Mean what you say

Inconsistencies turn a parent's “no” into “be more of a pain and I’ll change my mind”. Then we're back in the negative routine, often exposing our worst facet. So, to be nice, be firm.

Read more about Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller.

Photo by Christophe Chauchat

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