A reader recently sent this question to me. It happens to be one of my favorite topics…SETTING LIMITS and the ever-powerful word of “no.”
I am struggling with my 3-year-old son not listening to me. I try to be as consistent as possible, but he often wears me down and I end up giving in to what I have already said “no” to many times. I feel like my son is in control. What can I do when this happens?
You are not alone! Thank you for asking this question. So many moms go through this. Here are a few tips to help you to change this dynamic.
I refer to the word “no” as the main tool in the parenting tool box. It’s a great tool – it is absolutely free and super easy to use.
However, it needs to be used correctly each time or it becomes unproductive. The most important thing to remember about saying “no” is that it should only be used when you can make sure that your denial can be upheld.
A good example is when you are in the grocery store in what I like to refer to as the tunnel of trouble – that small space right before the check out where everything is perfectly positioned at children’s eye level. Your child asks for candy. If you say “no” then you must make sure that you do not go back and at any point in this interaction and allow your child to have the candy.
Children will often test parents by pushing back and asking over and over for the same thing when denied. This is just what children do. They test. It is important to keep in mind that your child asking and asking is not due to being an ineffective parent. This actually shows that your child is normal. And as a bonus…your consistent response aids in your child’s sense of safety and security.
Children will also tend to “up the ante” in escalating their response to the denial. They may scream or kick or cry in an attempt to get their way. It is important to know that this is simply testing. Your child really wants to know that they are NOT the ones in control. It looks like they are wanting what they are demanding, but it is deeper than that.
I find that when parents understand this concept, it is much easier for them to follow through on the “no.”
I like to equate it to when I ride a roller coaster. When going up the steep incline and my heart is beating fast, I tend to push on the safety harness – I DO NOT want it to actually move – I want to make sure that it is securely fastened and that I am safe.
Giving in to a child’s request when you have already said “no” can actually damage the trust your child has in you. It teaches them
• mommy will eventually give in when she says “no”
• mommy isn’t in control
• and mommy doesn’t keep her word.
Choosing when to say “no” is typically more important than what you say “no” to.
Think about the request before you respond. It is often worth giving in and saying “yes” to something like a piece of candy rather than engaging in a power struggle you know you are going to lose. The value in this is that your child won’t lose trust in you and you will remain in control.
Children can feel relentless in their demands. After all, they have endless amounts of energy and time to dedicate to this that parents just don’t have. You are putting in the energy and effort regardless so it is simply about shifting your approach and getting more out of your effort.
Be sure to say “no” when you mean it. Choosing wisely when to use “no” in addition to ensuring “no” means “no” are the keys to using this tool.
Good luck and know your child will benefit from you making this shift!