Yes, it is OK to say “No” to your child.
Parenting is not for the faint of heart. It is difficult to put the needs of your children above your own, especially when it comes to their training. Parents want the job of training children to be easy, and it just isn’t. However, the earlier you train your children (by whatever method you choose), the easier it is to train them. When you allow them to develop a poor attitude, to disrespect you (or teachers), or to treat others harshly, it sets a tone. Children have the need to test boundaries until they find them–they’ll operate within them contently, until a new discovery makes them need additional boundaries.
It is always a joy for me to say “yes” to my children. However, they must accept when I say “no,” and be respectful, even if they are disappointed. All four of my children have understood this from a very young age.
Some may say: “Children need to freely explore and set their own boundaries”; “Parents shouldn’t be so controlling”; “That is too harsh”; “I think children deserve the freedom to find themselves, in time.”
If you believe any of the statements above, you need to be sure that you fully adhere to them, and never, EVER complain when your children drive you crazy. That is a situation you chose, and you need to understand that and seek counseling, as needed. Those statements represent the parenting “experiments” that our popular culture promotes, and we are beginning to see the results of such reckless choices. Truly assess your feelings about the reality of raising children who are never restricted from anything-throughout all of childhood–with you never complaining about the difficulties you face. This post is about training your children, and training is part of a “framework” for family. You can read more about that here.
“No” means NO! Sounds pretty simple . . . .
Think about the meaning of words. As you teach your children daily through interactions with them, they learn the meaning of words from your conversations and your actions. What have they learned from you about the meaning of the word “no”? Does it mean “no”? Does it mean “what you want is irritating, but if you pester me about it, I’ll probably say yes”? Does it mean anything?
If your precious offspring don’t know the meaning of this word, it is because you have given them mixed messages about it. How do you feel about the word “no”? Do you feel deprived and entitled to everything you desire–even on a whim? Your own feelings about this word may be something you need to work out for yourself, too.
Saying “No” – Method 1
When your child is toddling about is the best time to teach them the concept of “no.” However, if you missed this window of opportunity, please start now.
For a practical example, let us consider a toddler moving around the family room using tables or chairs to support itself. Let’s say the toddler moves toward the electronic equipment and television and starts to touch them. You may use whatever method of training you deem appropriate, but THIS is when we stop the child, say “no” in a firm (not harsh) tone, and redirect them to appropriate areas of the family room.
“But my child is strong-willed. They won’t stop until they are allowed to touch whatever they want to touch.” If this statement sound familiar, here’s what you need to know: YOU ARE THE PARENT. You aren’t saying “no” because you find it entertaining. What are the first 5 reasons you can think of as to why a toddler shouldn’t touch the electronics? One of those (if not the first) needs to be this: ELECTRONICS ARE NOT SAFE for toddlers. You as the parent–although you want to give your baby everything it wants–know this is true. If that baby hurts himself (or herself) on the electronics, YOU are to blame. Now, they may cry, get angry, throw a tantrum, or all of the above; does that change the fact that electronics are dangerous? No. You must redirect your toddler as many times as it takes to help them get away from the danger. This process teaches the concept of “no.”
Extrapolate this example into any situation in which danger may be present. This makes logical sense, and I know everyone can grasp the concept. Now, how do you get children to listen to you in circumstances where danger is present? You teach and reinforce the concept of “no” in complete safety for practice. Your “no” in the family room with electronics is preparation for that fabulous trip to the Grand Canyon with cliff-side vistas! If your child doesn’t obey your “no” at the Grand Canyon, they may fall off one of those cliffs. Practice at home, in the grocery store, and especially in every parking lot.
For those who need me to say this, here you go: do NOT say “no” just for the fun of it. Really consider the importance of this concept, and don’t use it as a game–it helps them to trust you and your words when your children understand that “no” is a serious word. Also, do not put things in front of your child so you can teach this concept. A situation will present itself. A child must have a teachable spirit, but parents must use good sense–never pester or be needlessly harsh.
Saying “No” – Method 2
Is every situation a matter of dire necessity or danger? Is everything your child wants either absolutely “yes” or absolutely “no”? Of course, it isn’t. What if you are at church or a wedding or a meeting, and your child wants to talk to you. Is it wrong to talk? No. It is simply inappropriate at certain times, and–in these circumstances–you must say “no” to talking. In these situations, your meaning is “not right now” or “not in this room” or “wait until this _____ is over,” or something to that effect. How do you say “no” when it is only temporary?
Develop a silent means of communications for certain situations. When you furrow your brow and shake your head, teach your child this means “no.”
Even toddlers are able to communicate in this manner. There is also the possibility of teaching “signing” for certain communications. Remember the point of all this: you (the parent) need to be responsible for the behavior of your child, and not every normal childhood behavior is appropriate in every situation. The subtle nature of nonverbal communications shows a deep connection between you and your child, too. Further, nonverbal cues prevent the possibility of you embarrassing your child (or yourself) by verbally scolding them. Surely, that aspect of saying “no” is attractive to everyone.
Saying “No” – Method 3
This method of saying “no” is also a form of subtle, nonverbal communication – throat-clearing: give a nice, strong “ahem!”
My father used throat-clearing to communicate to us. It was as if he’d used a dog-whistle–silent to all in the room except for his children–and we’d all turn to look at him. He would then provide us with a Method 2 “no” to whatever we were doing that was inappropriate for the situation. For example, if we were sitting in church and whispering, Dad would clear his throat. We knew instantly our noise from the back pew had reached all the way up front, and Dad was telling us to quiet down. He never turned to look at us in church, eliminating the possibility of embarrassing himself or us. We knew exactly what that throat-clearing meant. He was saying, “you know how to behave in church, and you’re becoming so distracted the noise is increasing. If you don’t quiet down, I will need to do something to HELP you quiet down, and you don’t want that.” Rarely, did he ever clear his throat twice.
My children are now 21, 20, 17, and 15 years old. I still use throat-clearing with them. At this stage, we may be in a restaurant and they start getting silly and loud. I’ll give them a throat-clearing first, and sometimes that’s enough for them to look up, realize they’re being rowdy, and take it down a notch. However, they see each other (socially) less and less often, and they’ll get exuberant when they’re having fun together. Sometimes, they’ll speak to each other as thought their parents aren’t sitting there and drop an inappropriate colloquialism (use a curse word). A throat-clearing from me helps them become aware of my (prudish) presence, and they’ll usually apologize for using the word or phrase and go back to chatting with siblings.
What if saying “no” doesn’t work? What happens next?
This is where you must decide the best system of discipline for your family. What do your children need that you are able to provide CONSISTENTLY as a method of discipline? Time outs? Yelling/scolding? Grounding? Consider developmental appropriateness in this decision. A toddler has no concept of having a toy taken away from them. Do some research into this serious aspect of parenting, and be sure you and your spouse are in agreement before you implement a system of discipline.
In Summary . . . .
I realize there are many different methods of training children and just as many methods and excuses for not training children at all. Truth: you will enjoy time with your children much more when they are trained to behave the way you want them to, using your chosen methodology. If saying “no” to your children isn’t a problem for you, then I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this post.
Let me hear from you! Comment below, or send me an email.