The problem with saying 'no'

Most people who read my blog know a few thing about me - I love my family more than anything. I am addicted to shopping. I have a love/hate relationship with carbs. And I can't say no to my children.

Yes, I have a problem with discipline. It's not that I don't say the word no. I say 'no' all the time. Every day, in fact. My children know that word well. They are just not sure what to do with it.

And I'm not sure either, to be honest.

How many times do I say no before giving up? About two times. Which lasts a total of five seconds.

Typical situation? I see my 2 year old grab another piece of chocolate to eat.

I say: "Dimitry, no more chocolate. You already had enough today. Give that to mommy."

His big bright eyes look up at me. He smiles.

"No more chocolate. I mean it!" I say, in a firm 'I mean it' tone.

Smile. Then the pitter-patter of little feet, walking away from me.

I sigh. And empty the dishwasher.

I can't lay down the law in my house. I am not the boss. I am ruled by a 4 year old and a 2 year old.

Luckily, my children do listen to my husband. And I now find myself in the position of saying: "If you two don't stop fighting, I'm calling daddy!" Because they won't listen to me! In all fairness, yes, sometimes, they do listen to me. And for the most part, they are well behaved children. But kids will be kids, right?

I give in too easily, I know. I can't handle seeing them upset, or crying, or throwing a temper tantrum.

Especially in public. Good God. That is embarrassing, isn't it? I'm sure you've all been there - trying to pick up you crying toddler, who has perfected arching his back so it makes lifting him nearly impossible - and the tears! The drama! How can I deal with that calmly? I can't.

If my toddler wants another book, I will buy him another book. I know this is a bad habit, and one I must try to change. But it's really hard for me to say no. Mostly because I hate seeing my children upset. And because it is easier to take the easy way out in situations like that.

Sometimes, though, a child just wants to play, or do something that you know will only equal more work for you later on. This is when I think saying 'no' is not fair to the child. For instance, if my child wants to play in the kitchen sink, 'washing' dishes - it means I have to stand beside him, supervising. I will always say 'yes' because it brings my child pleasure. I think sometimes saying 'no' is also the easy way out for the parent.

Of course, each situation and each child is different - and no one method of parenting is 'perfect'. I understand that I need to be more firm and set more rules for my children. For their benefit, and for my own.

What are your tricks - how do you say 'no' to your children?
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Burgh Baby said...

Start now, sucker. It's easier to say no when they're shorter than you. ;-)

(My husband is the one who can't say no in our house and HOOBOY does he get played like a violin!)

Shannon @ AnchorMommy said...

I'm with you on saying yes to playing--I usually let my son play whatever he wants to, unless it's with something dangerous, of course. And I feel guilty when he asks to go to the park and I say no because we don't have time! I'm still feeling bad after saying no to him about that yesterday. :-(

Overall though, I think saying no and sticking to it is important to do from time to time. I want my boy to know no means no. It's tough though -- he's nothing if not persistent!

Toni said...

The more you do it, the easier it gets. If they don't learn discretion at an early age - what will they be like as a teenager or adult? Real life doesn't hand you everything you want. And honestly, if you tell them NO to another piece of candy or book - they aren't going to hate you for it. Nor, in 5 minutes, will they even remember. :)

Krystyn said...

I don't know if I have tricks, but I know that we have to establish the rules in our house. Yes, we say "no" when things are unsafe/unhealthy, etc. But, there are also times that they can't do something they ask for. I think it's about letting them know where the line is. And, if they don't know, they will continue to push.

And, seriously, I teach high school kids who I'm certain have never heard the word "no" and don't know what to do with it (even this morning, I had to have a talk with a 17 year old about the word "no.").

I understand wanting to have fun and wanting them to have joy in their lives, but I certainly wish my students knew what it meant to hear the word "no." Because, I don't back down and no matter how many times they ask, my answer will still be the same.

So, I guess my answer is, you have to decide where the boundary is, and stick to it. Kids crave discipline and somebody to show them where that line is..otherwise, I don't know if they learn it.

ModernMom said...

I have to admit I am a bit of a control freak so "No Thank You hon" rolls of the tongue pretty easily for me. My girls usually know I mean it.
That being said, when faced with a feisty little on ready for a fight, lol, I do pick my battles!
Is it really that important to me if we leave the park right now or can they stay another 5. They usually get the other 5. Can she wear the same sweater for the third day in a row. Um NO. Foot down. Mama wins.
I guess what I'm saying is I pick and choose when I need to stick to my guns, but no usually means no around here.

CaraBee said...

Children need limits. I agree with some of the other comments that you pick your battles, but when you say NO it should carry some weight. I have no problem telling my daughter no. I don't care where we are. I hate having a tantrum kid in public (or anywhere) as much as the next gal, but I want her to understand that that behavior is not acceptable. While I have occasionally bought her a "keep quiet" toy, I try to limit those. I want that to be a last resort, special occasion thing. I don't want her to think that misbehaving will get a reward.

Kids will push and push and push. Its up to us to push back.

Alice said...

Well, we are not to that age/stage yet, thankfully. I'd like to think that I will mean "no" when I say "no". But that's one of those things you won't know 'till you get there. :) Good post!

Alex and Ashley said...

Ugh, I hate arching! My kids arch their backs and raise their arms, impossible to pick them up! Especially when they are completely limp! I count to three and three means "big trouble". Thank goodness they always do it by two because I have no idea what I would do by three!

Julie Cole said...

I'm impressed that you can admit it. That's the first step :)

As you know, I'm a big fan of following through - I'd suggest just not saying no in the first place if you're not going to follow through.
But can you imagine what a madhouse I lived in with six kids if I let them all run the show? LOL!

Mom2Miles said...

Well, books are books and chocolate is chocolate. :) I have a hard time saying no sometimes, but usually I stand firm because I know it's in my sons' (or my) best interest. But lately, my almost-4y.o. is starting to sound like a teenager. "Or what, Mom?" he'll ask. "What happens if I don't?" Don't tempt me, buster! Just recently I took away his favorite toy for a whole day. I felt like a monster, but I gave him plenty of chances to stop his bad behavior.

Lynn said...

I really like what you said about how sometimes parents say "no" because it's easier. I've been really trying over this past year to stop the "automatic no" -- saying "no" just because I'm tired and don't feel like it. Instead, I try to really think it over first -- and if my only objection to painting/Play Doh/making muffins is that I don't want to do the clean up -- then I try to say yes, instead.

So saying yes isn't always a bad thing!

Scattered Mom said...

I had to learn to say no, because it was making Hubs the heavy and ruining his relationship with our son, and that wasn't fair. It strained our marriage too because Hubs would say no,Jake would come to me, I'd cave, and then Jake would flaunt it to Hubs, who would get mad at me. We fought about that more then I care to admit. Eventually I learned.

If your no doesn't carry weight, eventually it is going to bite you HARD in the ass. But it's not the word that counts, it's what you DO.

These days, when Hubs says no to Jake and he comes running to me, I say, "Didn't your Dad just say no to you? Don't bother. Not happening."

Some kids are easy, some need real limits and structure. Our kid is one of them.

Rebecca said...

I agree with you - don't say no for the sake of saying no or to get out of doing something that really isn't a big deal.

Pick your battles. Some stuff really, honestly isn't worth the fight and we may be saying no out of our own frustrations.

I agree with Julie - follow through. On days where I cave, I regret it because the bad behaviour starts up again etc. and on other days, when it's 9 am and I've said no to everything and everything, I feel the day will be lost ;)

Start small. It's easy to say no to things like dessert before supper etc. so start with those things that are easy to stick with.

Some days will be easier than others, some days will be a complete fail. We all live it ;)

Anonymous said...

with all due respect, it sounds like your children are very spoiled and have no limits. they should have been left to cry just for a very short time, because older infant/toddlers do cry for no reason..they should know that "no" means "no". explain to him why eating one more chocolate is not're the mother, act like one! you can still love them, and I can tell that you do..but...this time it's an extra book, in a few years it's the newest cell phone or car...

Daughter&Dad said...

I have no advice, I am just like you. I cannot tell my kids (3,5,9,and 16) NO. I wish I could, they listen to their dad, just not me. I will say this,my 16 yr old is getting ready to go to boarding school, I think if I was a lot firmer when he was younger, I would not have half the problems I Have today.

Muthering Heights said...

I just say no and mean it - I'm a bit of a tough mom in that regard. :)

I'll warn you though...when you start to lay down the law, there will be many tantrums!

Chrissy MacCEO said...

Like you, I have a hard time saying no and then the feeling of failure builds up and I snap and YELL. Unfortunately, that's why they listen. I can't stand that the only time they really truly listen is when I YELL.

The one thing I started, though, is that I have 2 bins in my pantry - one that says "SNACKS" with healthy snacks in it, and another that says "TREATS" with sugary, once-or-maybe-twice a day treats in it. They are allowed to go in a take a snack whenever they'd like, but they have to ask to take a treat, and it can only be after a meal. So far, its working.

Jennifer said...

I can relate to Krystyn. I taught high school, and I could tell which students had parents who never said 'no.' If you don't tell your kids 'no,' you're really doing them a disservice because they will eventually butt heads with other authority figures like their teachers.

Figure out what rules are really important to you, and don't bend. I also give my kids a warning: "If you don't pick up your toy right now, you will not play with it tomorrow." Warning them of the consequence helps me stay focused so I don't just start yelling loose 'no's' or demands that aren't being followed.

Good Luck!

Lady Mama said...

Honestly, I'm not good at saying no either. While other parents are telling their kids "you can only have one muffin" I'm letting my boys have two (or three). I'm still learning. :)

Elaine A. said...

I probably don't have much more to add to what the others have said except to say that you've brought this up A LOT on twitter so I really feel like you want to change and start saying NO.

You CAN do it, it's just going to be very hard at first and I think that is part of the reason why you haven't started to. I could be way off base...

You know what's right for your boys and I think you know that it would be best if you did start setting more boundaries.

I know you are an extremely loving Mom but yes, NO is definitely an essential word for them to learn! In this case it's kinda "tough love" ;) Good luck my friend!

LoopyJ said...

I'm not a Parenting Book pusher:) But I would recommend you check out "Breaking the Good Mom Myth" by Alyson Schafer (Canadian! Yay!) She has great reasons as to why pampering can be harmful and she provides you with various tools to be a good parent with the ability to say no:)
My rule of thumb - if you're going to give in, give in early. Otherwise stick to your NO!

nadine said...

Great post! I often feel the same way. Certain things I lay down the law for, and keep it up, other things, like the chocolate, I give in pretty easily. Pick your battles! :)

Tiaras said...

I do not say no very well either - I just can't. Probably b/c that is all I heard during my childhood. i just want my kids to be filled with hugs and kisses and balloons and all kinds of shiny!! When you figure it out- let me know, b/c I've been failing at this for 8 years now! hee hee

Anonymous said...

Saying no and sticking to it is part of teaching your child/ren respect for authority. Parents are not meant to be their child/ren's friends, and it's time parents stop acting like they are. My two boys know that I'm a tough mom, and they show the respect they should to me and especially to other adults. (And, I'm not afraid of the carelessly flung "I hate you" that occasionally surfaces from the oldest. He comes back pretty quick when he realizes who's cooking supper!) Fortunately, I got lots of practice as an elementary teacher before I had my own kids! :)