Saying No to our kids – without the arguments, tears and tantrums

How often do we respond to a childs request by saying ‘no’ only to be worn down by negotiations, arguments, tantrums, whining and over-explaining?   Saying “no” translates instead to, “I’ll begin by saying no, but depending on my mood, where we are, who is watching, our energy level and overall stamina…then keep trying and I may very well give in”

We all love to see our children happy. Nothing warms our hearts more than hearing the squeals of delight as our little cherub unwraps the paper to reveal a much sought after new toy. I for one, will never forget the look on my sons face upon receiving a surfboard last Christmas when he had no idea it was coming.   We love to give our children what we can, and there is no shame in that, as long as it is balanced with gratitude and the notion that, in the words of Mick Jagger, “you can’t always get what you want”.  Because what we dont like to see, is children who whine for just one more,  who cry when their request is refused or who slam doors, yell and scream because all the other mums let their kids go to the city by themselves.

In my previous post about teaching a child to be grateful, I concluded by saying that one of the most important ways to teach gratitude is to sometimes say ‘No’. Part of making our children grateful, as well as flexible, resilient, co-operative and in the end happy, is for them to accept ‘no’, and accept that sometimes their wants and desires are not always going to be fulfilled.

Saying no to our children is not always an easy task. It is difficult to listen to the screams of  a toddler in the middle of a supermarket aisle. It is hard to watch the look of dejection on the face of a pleading child. It is (I imagine) extremely difficult to listen to the rants of  an ‘oh so hard done by teeneager’ who has the meanest parents in the world. (actually I dont have to imagine that as I’ve had that from an 8 year old)

It is for this reason that my husband and I decided that we will attempt to ride out the tantrums of a toddler and ignore the pleas and cries of the older children and hopefully….prevent the tiresome and weary monotony of a long, drawn out argument. So, we are cutting out repetitive reasoning, over-negotiation and over-explaining , and simply allowing ourselves to just say ‘no’.  One line of reasoning is all we should need. “You cannot have an ice-cream because you have had enough junk food lately” End of story. “You cannot go to the city by yourself because you are too young” End of story. 

To help implement this my husband and I have come up with a seemingly immature but proving rather effective method to be able to say no without the follow up arguments. Basically, if we feel we need to say no to something,  then we give one quick line of reason,  wait for the ensuing pleas, whines and buts and then with great precision and purpose place our hands over our ears and sing loudly “la, la, la, la, la” to the dulcit tunes of Lady GaGa. Not only can we no longer hear the whines and pleas, but the children are learning very quickly that the hands over the ears means that the decision is final, and that if they want mum and dad to stop embarassing them,  then they had better quit now and cut their losses.

Who knows if this will be as effective when they are older!  The point is that we are hopefully instilling in them the notion that there will always be times when they must accept our stance. In life there will always be boundaries, rules and laws that we are required to follow,  regardless of whether we agree with them or not.  If a child is accepting, flexible, respectful and able to adapt to a world that doesnt always give it the response that it desires…then we will certainly be on the way to creating adults that will remain for the most part  happy, content and resilient.

So for the times when you need to say no to your children follow these rules:

  • firmly but calmly state your response with a one line reason as to why
  • ignore the buts, pleas, whines and cries (with very young children distraction is a great tool to redirect their attention, whilst with older children the hands on the ears trick does work a treat!)
  • Change the subject, walk out of the room, continue what you are doing, but try very hard not to go back on your word. Children have great memories and are very intuitive about just how far they need to push before mum or dad give in.

Saying no can be a difficult task, but we must stick to our guns if it is something we feel strongly about. But its not all doom and gloom for the kids….stay tuned for my next post which looks closely at other ways to make our children feel they have some control over the decision making processes of the family unit.

 (and please dont have an image in your mind of my poor little offspring constantly being denied their every request. They really are doing ok!)

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This Post Has 7 Comments

  1. Susan, the Book Chook

    Nobody ever said being a parent was easy, and saying no when kids beg, plead and tantrum is definitely not easy. But I agree wholeheartedly that it’s so important to set those limits now, even when we’re tired or busy. Nice to think that Lady Gaga offers parenting help!

  2. My Mummy Daze

    I agree with what you’re saying, but can totally imagine my two-year-old walking around with her hands over her ears, singing ‘la lala la la’ next time we asked her to do something! I can see it would be effective with older kids though. Have you noticed that they’ve stopped challenging your firm ‘no’ response now that you don’t entertain it? I’d imagine they’d be pretty quick to learn if you’re consistent.

    1. Martine

      Yes it is something that we have used more on our older children and not tried out on the 20 month old! For him, we stick to a firm no, then distraction usually works best. And the older boys are definately challenging us much less…so far so good!

  3. katepickle

    Ah yes… I needed a reminder to regroup on this one!
    We’ve had a recent uprising in the pleas and begging, and some times it does my head in and I totally loose my cool over it.
    After reading this I am going to try and remember two things that I’ve found works for us in the past (but obviously I’ve forgotten or things have changed!) – 1) think about the request for a moment first and then only say no if I really do mean no. And 2)say no, mean no and walk away from the begging… with hands over hears and la la laing if I must!

    1. Martine

      Good luck….and yes we all need reminding of just about everything to do with parenting every now and then!

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