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Why You Need To Say "No" To Your Kids

by Nina Badzin
Photo by: Shutterstock

SIGNS YOU’RE LIVING WITH A PINT-SIZE CEO (Caveat, none of this applies to kids with special needs.)

  • If your child’s favorite shirt is dirty, she goes ballistic. You “have to” wash it every day so she’s “willing to” get dressed in the morning.
  • Your child will only eat one thing for breakfast. You feed him that one thing every day.
  • You “have to” listen to the same song on repeat in the car if you don’t want your child to whine during the entire ride.
  • When you pick up your child from daycare, pre-school, or elementary school, he throws a tantrum if you didn’t bring a treat.
  • In fact, your purse is a treasure trove of treats. You’re ready to hand out suckers and cookies at your child’s demand like when he has to sit in the grocery cart, or do anything he doesn’t want to do.
  • Nights out without the kids are always scheduled at 9pm because your children “won’t let” anyone else put them to bed.
  • If your child wants to take dance, ice-skating, and gymnastics all in the same semester, you sign her up even if it stretches your budget and your sanity. You never make her choose. “She wants to take them all,” you say. Your child’s “wanting” matters more than anything else in your household.
  • When your children make scenes in public and you make a threat about leaving, your friends roll their eyes. Nobody believes you’ll follow through, least of all your kids.

If you recognize yourself and your children in several of the examples above, there’s still hope. The issue of “kids in charge” is something I was guilty of until my oldest was about four. This is why I think I can help.

WHAT’S GOING HERE: The kind of parenting I described above is of the desperate “put a bandage on it” category. It’s how we parents react when we’re willing to do whatever it takes to get through the afternoon, the morning, or the minute.

WHY IT’S A BAD IDEA: Picture the worst college roommate, friend, spouse, and colleague imaginable. That’s who you’re creating when you constantly give in to your child’s whims.

SOLUTIONS: First read the book by Dr. David Walsh called NO: WHY KIDS OF ALL AGES NEED TO HEAR IT AND WAYS PARENTS CAN SAY IT. He does a phenomenal job dealing with that fine line between “choosing your battles” and forgetting to pick any battles at all.

I’ll share what worked for us: We left parties early. We turned the car around on the way to outings if our son acted up before we got there. We cancelled play dates. I’m not making this up—-we took away his Hanukkah present when he was ungrateful about what he’d received. We endured the initial tantrums of trips through Target without suckers and so on. We did not let any crying on his part bully us into changing our minds on anything. We took charge of our home, and our son continued being exactly what he was supposed to be—-a child who tests his parents. Only this time he found parents with healthy boundaries instead of wusses terrified to upset him.

There was little yelling on our part when we finally stopped letting him be in control, and there’s even less now. Our discipline routine became and still is rather matter-of-fact and predictable. The kids get a few warnings. Then there’s some sort of consequence they knew about during the warning phase. We always follow through, and we don’t wait for things to escalate. There are definitely people in our lives who see us as “very strict.” I see us as parents with reasonable expectations of our kids’ behavior. I’m not saying we’re perfect, that our kids are perfect, or that there’s such a thing as “perfect.” We’re doing the best we can though by being intentional with our parenting. (Of course, don’t look for me when they’re teenagers. I’ll be hiding under my bed.)

I’ll end with this: what Dr. Walsh calls the “yes culture of modern parenting” has turned our world upside down. The kids are in charge. It’s not good for them, for you, or for our society. Take back what is rightfully yours—-the reins of your household! Your child’s future roommate or spouse will silently praise you. And the people who spend time with your children now will thank you too.

Nina Badzin is a freelance writer and blogger living in Minneapolis with her husband and four children. She co-leads the book review site GreatNewBooks.org and was a cast member of Listen to Your Mother in the Twin Cities. You can find her on her blog, on Twitter and Facebook).

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