*This is a repost of a popular vintage article. It’s one of my favorites about being a parent, and a psychotherapist to teens and their (anxious) parents. Enjoy!*
“Don’t you find it hard to say no to your child?” asked a woman at the park, during a brief conversation.
“Hell, no.” I replied.
“Oh…um, alright, I’ll see you later…nice meeting you,” she stammered.
I tend to be cut-and-dried like that, which alienates at times.
I also tend not to tell perfectly nice strangers that I primarily make my living from parents who do not do no. In some perverse way I am grateful as their missteps made me a better parent (not that I don’t stumble, trip, and facepalm on occasion).
Why do parents struggle with No?
It’s not exactly a tongue-twister.
It’s fairly universal.
There are no shades of gray.
Maybe that’s why.
Be that as it may…
8 Reasons to fall in love with No!
1. No is nice
As in nice when children are well-behaved, respectful, and responsible. And nice when they exhibit good sportsmanship, are able to share, and say please and thank you.
2. No ensures boundary setting
Incorporating no in your vernacular early on means defining acceptable and unacceptable treatment from others. Tight boundaries encourages personal growth through self-awareness.
3. No increases frustration tolerance
Life is hard, problems are inevitable, and no one is immune. The earlier learned, the better. Experiencing and tolerating frustration teaches problem-solving and coping skills.
4. No wards off entitlement
Bratty children are just not cute. No matter how photogenic little Ethan and Emma—when they tantrum, we all want to run for the hills.
Unless you plan on sustaining and subsidizing a perfect world for your child forever (which is selfish, dysfunctional, and impossible), you may want to reconsider the tech toys, designer duds, and elite educational institutions which cannot be traded for an IRA when you’re 65, stressed out, and strapped.
(Speaking of institutions and worse case scenarios—there are other institutions that may step in…God. Forbid.).
5. No encourages creativity
When my child bullied another child at school (horrors—I was heartsick), all his toys were placed in the garage for an extended period. We ended up making new toys from recycled cereal boxes, empty milk cartons, and random items found in sofa cushions. He still asks when we’ll do that again…
6. No teaches discipline
A hallmark of all things worthwhile, hard work and sacrifice are the counterparts to lazy, self-indulgent, and unfulfilled. Although sleeping till noon and comfortable, most parent-subsidized 30-50 somethings are not satisfied in life, even if the bank account adds up differently.
7. No buys liability insurance against Juvie-Johnny, Preggers-Patricia, and Meth-addicted-Manny
*That is all*
8. No means your child will not be referred to me at 16 due to an expulsion order for “8-12 weeks of mandatory counseling focusing on decision making, life skills, and substance abuse.”
Lastly, no does not mean you’re mean. All kids experience out of control emotions that feel really scary, and the best medicine is a parent/adult who provides emotional safety in the form of boundary setting. Please spend your time, and emotional and physical energies ensuring that no is not as alien as, well, an alien.
Kids have one shot at childhood. And it’s never too late to get to know no. In the long run your children will appreciate you for suspending comfort, habit, and ease.
What’s your take on No?
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Yours in No-ness,