Life is full of surprises, and kids have a way to leave us surprised all the time.
Today, I am here to speak about the importance of the word ‘NO’ in your child’s life.
A child is supposed to be your reflection, but do we want to make them a literal one?
Mindsets, attitudes, and personalities have undergone a drastic change in the past 20 years. This change is the result of the exposures that the children have been given in terms of education, television, etc.
This change has become more evident over the past ten years with the rampant usage of the internet, video viewing, access to increased information, and ready availability of various online tools.
Child care experts and psychologists have observed a drastic change in the attitudes of children, owing to these exposures.
As per a leading child psychologist Dr. Laura Markham, founder of a revolutionary website Aha! Parenting- Telling kids no actually shuts them down. They feel their initiatives are shut down, and they start thinking inside the box.’
The need to say no is a reflex than actually drawing a literal meaning from the word. Today, children have become more sensitive towards criticism and draw an immediate inference out of any conversation.
So does this mean that we should not use the word NO?
No, absolutely not. You need to ensure that the child understands the meaning of the word ‘No’ without using it too loosely.
As a parent of two, I can relate to anything any other parent has to say about discipline and using the word NO, in many of my conversations. However, in the recent past, my experience has just confirmed what Dr. Markham emphasizes.
While speaking with kids, they almost only listen to the first line and the last line. The middle section is, almost, always lost in transition. You think you have made a point but in reality, you may not have achieved the purpose at all.
How can you overcome this dilemma?
The best conversations are two-way communications.
Most parents in earlier times would not have agreed with this concept. Their point was - Only My Way.
As kids, we may not have questioned our parents about their decisions, their influence on our lives, their choice of our career, friends, and so many other things.
We probably grew up with the same mindset that it will not be difficult to carry on this ‘tradition’ even if we have kids.
But man, we couldn’t be more wrong!
Today’s kids are far more aware of their choices and surroundings than we ever were. They may not be right, but they have a way to find a loophole in any argument.
Mom - It’s time to switch off your mobile NOW.
Kid - Why should I do it?
Mom - Because it’s past 10 PM! Haven’t I told you this several times before?
Kid - I only have 15 mins of the video remaining. Please let me watch it.
Mom - No. You are way past your deadline. Now give me the phone.
Kid- But even you do it, then how can you stop me? (Storms out of the room)
For some, this may be brattish behaviour, while others may call for a rational explanation.
How you can tackle it -
Mom - You are way past your deadline. Switch off your mobile now.
Kid - But why? (Slightly upset now)
Mom - Sweetheart, you are far too young to be watching the mobile for such a duration. As per your age, you need at least 9 to 10 hours of sleep to help you function properly. I am sure you do not want to miss out on all the fun that is in store tomorrow, do you? If you go to sleep now, you can look forward to a good time with your friends and online classes as well!
Kid- But even you need to sleep, right?
Mom- Yup. You are right! Let me catch up with my chores for the day, and I will sleep soon too.
Now each situation is different. However, it is required to tell NO in the right way. By rationalizing your statement, you are just reinforcing the kid to accept a particular rule in his/her life that is good for them.
Not etched in stone, but this can prove to be a good start.
Every action has an equal, and opposite, reaction.
Well, we have all grown with this Newton law and the only one that stuck with us at all times. It holds with every argument involving the word NO.
Human nature is tuned to not listen to negative statements, especially ones that involve telling NO directly. I am sure none of us likes to be told this in an argument.
Today, kids are sharper with their tongues and smarter with their minds. They know how to continue an argument without realizing they are doing so.
Your kid wants to spend the night at a friends’ house, and you are not comfortable with it.
Kid- My friend has invited me for a sleepover. Can I go?
Kid- But why? It is just next door! (a little agitated now)
Mom- Because I told you so. Now please don’t ask this question again.
(Kid is confused and angry)
Remember, an argument is not going to solve any problem.
Way to address this-
Kid- My friend has called me for a sleepover at her place tonight. Can I please go?
Mom- Wow! That sounds exciting now. However, it is just that we would prefer if you stayed at home. You are young, and we are concerned about your safety. We are not fond of the thought of you being away from us, even if it for just one night. Let us all plan a sleepover at your aunts’ place next week, shall we?
(The kid may not be elated but he/she is going to like the proposition far better than listening to the word NO)
It is, again, situational. You have to be innovative in coming up with the right argument to dissolve an on-going one.
Handled any other way, your kid would have resented your decision, and you would have felt helpless and angry.
Accentuate positive behavior
We often end up telling our kids ‘No’ more often than praising their good behavior. Most parents don’t realize that they unconsciously end up telling them what not to do than telling them what is.
Constant negative answers are also another way of saying ‘No’.
It is good to accentuate their positive behavior and applaud their achievements often to build a positive environment around them.
Mom- Your habit of not keeping your glasses and plates is getting on my nerves. When are you going to learn? How many times should I repeat the same thing?
Kid- I will do it in just a second! Stop shouting.
What you can do -
Mom- Can you please keep your glasses and plates back in their place?
Kid- I will, in just a second.
(Mom, after waiting for a while)
Mom- Wow! I am very impressed with your bookshelf. It is so well-organized. You can easily find something when you need it the most. Don’t you think it will be a good idea to keep your glasses and plates back in their place or in the sink so that it does not spoil your shelf?
You have your child thinking. Being assertive is better than being aggressive.
Give your kid an occasional hug or tight squeeze or even a peck to see a big difference in their attitude and comprehensibility.
It is the key to getting the right results. You are probably going to be tied doing a thousand things simultaneously, every day. But despite everything, you need to keep a tab on your temper and the innate need to say ‘no’.
Picking your battles will only make things easier on you and your kid.
Your consistent behavior and approach will reinforce the same in your child.
Instead of repeatedly making threats, you need to follow through with your point and be patient.
If you have a rule that the kids need to eat only on the dining table without TV or mobile, you need to follow through with this rule every day. You have to do this to make a point. You are their role models and setting clear ground rules for everyone is the best way to bring a change.
Your actions definitely will speak louder than words.
Only use NO, when you mean it.
You have to be direct when there are certain dangers involved. Crossing a street, touching a hot oven, switching on the gas, using blades or scissors, standing on a fence or railing, etc.
These are situations that demand immediate action and telling them a direct ‘NO’ will quickly pass on the message that ‘no’ means ‘no’.
Don’t overuse it or abuse it else it will lose its meaning.
Parenting is an one-way street with two-way communication.
Try to be your best version to bring out the best in your children. Saying ‘No’ is perfectly fine as long as reinforced positively.
Shaping a child’s behavior is in your hands, and only you have the power to influence it.
You are a great parent, and there is no doubt about it.
Happy Parenting to you!