Saying ‘no’ frequently to your young children may be the opposite of your parental instincts.
But according to Georgia Manning ‑ counsellor, psychotherapist and the director of Wellbeing For Kids ‑ saying ‘no’ to your kids is one of the best things you can do for them.
Manning puts this down to the fact that many parents have shied away from saying ‘no’ to their children because of the ‘self-esteem movement’, where anything that could potentially damage a child’s self-esteem was frowned upon.
But as a result, ‘the pendulum has swung too far’.
‘We’ve gone from not being emotionally attuned with our children to thinking that protecting them from any discomfort or things that they don’t want to do is a way of showing love.’
But as we always insist, a key focus of ‘good’ parenting is setting up your children with long-term life skills.
It’s the idea of ‘short-term pain for long-term gain’…
While your children may be disappointed when they hear the word ‘no’, it will make them much more prepared for the reality of adulthood, where we all have to hear that word more often than we’d like.
Here are 5 more reasons from Manning as to why you should say ‘yes’ to saying ‘no’.
- Kids need to feel discomfort.
Protecting them from uncomfortable situations or feelings will set them up with unrealistic expectations for the future.
Not only will the discomfort they inevitably encounter in adulthood come as more of a shock to them, they won’t have the coping skills to deal with it productively.
‘Avoidance grows anxiety because it tcaches them that the thing they are anxious about is so bad that the person who is in charge of their life thinks they can’t possibly manage it.’
2. Kids need to learn to wait.
Delaying gratification is one of the most important factors for success in life, according to Manning.
By constantly saying ‘yes’ to our children’s every whim, we are again setting them up with unrealistic expectations.
As adults, we have to work hard to get what we want, and in very few instances does this happen instantaneously.
So our children should learn this very important lesson early on, even if the waiting time is comparatively very short.
For example, play time comes after homework, dessert comes after dinner is finished, and so on.
If we give our children everything they want exactly when they want it, we risk raising entitled children, rather than supporting their development into ambitious and driven adults.
3. Boundaries make kids feel secure.
And while negotiating with young children seems like a healthy approach, it can sometimes serve to confuse these boundaries.
Uncertainty and inconsistency can produce anxiety in adults, and it’s the same for children.
If kids never know where they stand or what response they are going to get from you, it can make them anxious and they can lose trust in you and your authority.
‘Children always push for boundaries, they are pushing for those “nos” and it’s our job to give it to them’, says Manning.
These ‘nos’ can be comforting for them, because ‘they know that there are limits and they feel cared for and safe’.
4. Kids need to know their parents are in charge.
Negotiating or pleading with your kids upsets the heirarchial parent-child dynamic.
And ‘psychologically, it’s really important for kids to know that the person looking after them is in control’.
So replace the bargaining and polite requests with a firm ‘no’.
Young kids know that they don’t know everything about the world or how to take care of themselves, but they believe that you do.
Being assertive will reassure them that you do, and will make them feel safe.
5. Kids need parents to be parents, not friends.
Manning says that she sees many parents who worry their children won’t love them or like them if they’re too strict.
So in response, they try to be more like friends than parents, and more often than not, friends don’t say ‘no’.
But there’s absolutely no evidence to suggest that loving but firm parenting will break your bond.
On the contrary, it is more likely to create and sustain a healthy and mutually respectful relationship with your child as they grow up.
Furthermore, something that Manning doesn’t mention, but that is incredibly important, is the life-skill of being able to say ‘no’.
Many people have difficulty saying no to friends, employers, or colleagues, and end up doing things they don’t want to do as a result.
If your child grows up with the healthy boundaries that come from hearing ‘no’, then it’s much more likely they will be able to create these boundaries for themselves and their adult relationships.
So don’t shy away from saying ‘no’ to your children – they may not realise it, but they want and need to hear it every now and then!