Parents today are constantly complaining that they do not have enough time in the course of a day to take care of everything that needs to be done. They are running their children to school and back – and sign them up for other activities which quickly fill up both their time and YOUR schedule. Parents today also complain that their children are spoiled, and expect far too much of their parents.
But how much of this is because parents today cannot say NO to their children? How much of the hustle and bustle, the overwhelming feelings of parents today, the constant demands of children – are in actuality caused by the parents themselves?
It turns out that saying NO to the kids is not an easy thing to do for parents today. Experts believe that with more children coming from two parent working households, and spending their time in daycares and after school care (or being cared for by others), many parents are laden with guilt which they try to relieve by entertaining every whim and whistle that their children have. And certainly, kids are smart and catch on to this at a very young age.
According to parenting experts, children who manipulate or constantly press on and whine, or complain until they get their way are only acting on learned behavior. They learned when they were a toddler that that if they threw a fit in the check out line mom or dad would buy them the candy bar just to get them quiet. They learned that pouting, or acting sad or solemn will eventually change mom and dads mind. So it is only natural as they get older that they continue to manipulate mom and dad through guilt or other tactics. You are not the first parent to feel like saying NO to your child will result in them being an outcast at school, or to fall to the pressures that children place on their parents to do and get the things that they want. And yet on some level, you know that this is not the truth.
And sadly, not setting limits and boundaries, and not being assertive with your child is a cycle that will only worsen with time. If your child wants to play travel hockey, or sign up for the drama team – and you know you don’t have the time or resources to do it, you should simply say NO, and teach your child to accept the answer. If your child wants an Iphone, because ‘everyone has one at school but them,” and you don’t feel its right – you should say NO! Even more important is that your reason for saying no to your child, isn’t something that you have to explain to your kid. You are the parent and they are the child.
The natural course of parenthood is to try and provide the best things in life for our children, both opportunistically and otherwise. Parents often feel that saying no to a request of their children’s will make their child not like them, or will somehow have a long term negative effect on their child. Experts say otherwise. In fact, children who have limits and boundaries in the home set by the parents turn out to be adults who do not take as much for granted and who work harder to reach their goals according to a study from Psychology Today.
As a parent, you have to sit back and ask yourself why it is so difficult to say NO to your children. If you are honest, you will realize that often it’s just easier to say yes to their requests than to deal with the pouting, manipulative, or negative behavior that results from your child not getting his or her way. In other words, you say YES – because it’s easier for you in the moment. Even if it means in the long run that you will have less time, or less money. And parents today are extremely affected by peer pressure of their own. When your child’s best friend is getting or doing a bunch of things and your child is not – it is easy to feel that maybe you aren’t providing enough for your child. The head of today’s parent is filled with far too many feelings of things they should be doing in order to be the best parent possible. Far too often, these “I shoulds” come from buying into another family’ values versus your own.
The best thing you can do for your child is to follow through with your own vision of what is valuable and important for your family. If your child is raised knowing that there are limits and boundaries, and that the word NO, means exactly that – you are teaching them valuable lessons. And, if you succumb to peer pressure and do things for your kids based on what other parents are doing, what kind of example are you setting for your kids to withstand peer pressure when they themselves are faced with it? Keeping up with the Joneses is a trait passed down from the parent to the child, and sets your child up for a life that will be more about ‘measuring up’ than being happy.
As a parent, you need to decide what is best for your family and your child. This does not mean that certain things cannot be discussed or compromised on, but you should not have to give up all your free time, your money or your sanity in order to accommodate the fleeting needs and wants of your children. Additionally, try not to confuse yourself or your child with the difference between needs and wants – and happiness and instantaneous gratification. One of the most useful life lessons that we can pass down to our children is how to be happy WITHOUT contingencies. Happiness is not contingent upon certain measures. It comes from within and it comes from knowing that you are loved and supported.
Next time you are about to cave – remember that saying no to your child will not be the end of the world! Your time, values, money and opinions are just as valuable (if not more so) than your child’s.