Is Parenting even possible without saying no?
As parents, we say no to our kids so many times that we forget that no is but a negative word. Hence, saying no is certainly not an approach we must take for every other thing under the sun. So, if like me you too are used to saying no to your child all the time, I think it’s time we change our approach. I think it’s time we try to find an approach to parenting without saying no. Well, at least, try to.
Now, on any given day, this is me.
“No, M, you can’t play with water.”
“No, M, you can’t play with your toys in the living room.”
“No, M, we can’t go out now.”
“No, M, you can’t wash your hands for 10 minutes just for the joy of it.”
“No, M, don’t play with mud.”
“No, M, don’t jump.”
“No, M, you cannot put paint all over your hands.”
Well, as you can see, I say no to her so many times that I forget that she is but a kid and can’t be, in fact, shouldn’t be restricted at all times. I forget that saying no to her all the time probably diminishes the effect of no for the time when it really is important. But honestly, I hadn’t really thought about it until recently and I have my husband to thank for that. Well, him being the more patient one between the two of us, it was no surprise really that it came from him.
So, one of the things that S has started reminding me every other day is that I should not say no to everything M asks for. More often than not it’s got to do with letting her play with water or making a mess. And as much as I would not like to admit that he is right, he is actually right. But you can see my dilemma when the choice is between a child playing with water in the living room to a child sitting by my side watching rhymes on the television.
But really when S mentioned that I’m always saying no to M and maybe I should avoid that, it made perfect sense to me. It actually made me think about how my mom has been with us. She would hardly say no to us. In fact, we could do what we wanted and she never restrained us. I think as a result of that we always knew our boundaries. She let us flourish on our own and not being negative all the time was perhaps one of the best things she could have done for us.
But I’m nothing like my mom. And it’s hard work for me to say yes to certain things. However, saying no doesn’t really work all the time, does it? For example, whenever she is running about at home, I keep saying no to doing anything with her unless she wears her slippers because I’m worried she’ll catch a cold. Well, don’t judge me, it’s a mom thing. But let me tell you honestly, it has not worked. So, probably, S is right. I do need to rethink my strategy.
S believes that saying no all the time just ends up restraining a kid’s imagination which might not be such a great idea for their growth. And he is right.
I guess it all comes down to the type of requests I say no to. I mean saying no to her when she asks for a toy at the store could be worth our while for she needs to know she can’t have everything she wants every time or she at least needs to work to get what she wants. But when it comes to letting the house get a little messy, I guess I could be a little less uptight. I mean it’s just water on the floor which can be mopped but obviously, for a control freak like me, that’s tough.
S believes that saying no all the time just ends up restraining a kid’s imagination which might not be such a great idea for their growth. And he is right. Of course, it goes without saying that sometimes saying no is the only option. Maybe having a set of thumb rules on when or how to say yes or no might help especially for a parent like me whose first reflex is to say no?
So, here’s my outline to help me navigate this tricky problem and I would love to hear your suggestions on the same.
Parenting without saying no – Thumb rules
Say no when it threatens your kid’s safety.
Well, if your kid wants to play with fire you have got to say no. There are no two ways about it. It’s non-negotiable because the safety of your child matters the most.
Say yes when all that might happen is a mess at home.
The next time your child wants to spread legos all over the living room, try not to freak out. In my case, I always insist that M does that in her room but she doesn’t listen so that’s when I flip out. But maybe, I could let this pass. It’s just lego, annoying yes but still just lego.
Say no when it comes in the form of a tantrum.
You don’t want to set an example where a child’s tantrum is rewarded. When M does that I just want to do anything possible to make her stop yelling or crying. But S is very sensible when it comes to tantrums and I’m amazed how he calmly tells her that she won’t be listened to as long as she maintains the tantrum. And more often than not she listens to him. Of course, there are times when nothing works and she needs to be scolded but the fact is she is not given anything which she asks for in the form of an outburst.
Say yes when they have earned it.
There are times when M asks for certain things and we tell her that if she is a good girl then we may give her that. It’s not that she asks for much though. In fact, the only thing she asked for is a scooter recently and because she actually did listen to certain conditions we set for her, we got one for her. So, basically, sometimes camaflouge the no as something of a reward based approach. Give what they ask for as long as reasonable if they do certain things or behave a certain way. I’m told it works.
To sum it up, I think parenting must be a combination of saying yes and no, of setting limits and just letting them be. Of course, that’s easier said than done and I know that all too well. It’s a tricky balance to achieve especially when for a parent everything or everyone seems like a threat to the child. But it can be worked on. At least, I hope it can be worked on. So as I said, it isn’t going to be easy because when is anything when it comes to parenting? However, if the effort is made, maybe instead of saying no 9 out of 10 times, we could bring it down to something like 6 out of 10? Something which will then be much closer to positive parenting and believe me even that is something to be proud of. Let’s hope in some way we can achieve a balance for parenting without saying no.