The Benefits of Saying “No” to your Child

The Benefits of Saying "No" to your Child
Blurred hiway. Photo by Lucas Ettore Chiereguini

Six o’clock in the evening, we were on our way home driving down the road of Commerce Avenue after Hale attended her Mental Arithmetic class and after watching a movie. We should reach home before 8:00 PM. That’s late for all of us since we all normally get to sleep between 8 to 9 PM. I can imagine that upon reaching home, I would have to carry our bags from our car, clean myself, prepare the beddings, and the list would go on.

While driving our car, I could hear Hale’s heavy sigh and breathe, so I asked her why. She explained that she wanted the “1000 My Little Pony” stickers. That meant, entering another mall, parking our car, paying the fees just to get to a bookstore to buy the sticker book she wanted and going back to our car to finally, finally go home.

She had been breathing and sighing a few minutes before that. Obviously, she wanted to get what she wanted right away — no delay, no tomorrow, no next day. She wanted it today.

If I wanted a push button that will stop her from sighing audibly, I would park our car at another mall to grant her wish. She would then be going home happy and satisfied, while another hour and parking fee would have been wasted.

Unfortunately and fortunately, that’s not my style. Call it expectation vs reality on her part. Here’s the reality:

I continued driving while explaining to her it was already late in the evening and we can’t stop at a mall just to buy a sticker book. This didn’t stop her from sighing…

When our car reached another street, that’s when I felt I had to talk to her more seriously right away. No shouting. No spanking. Just a gentle and firmer disapproval and check-up of her current attitude.

Saying ‘no’ teaches our kids that disappointment happens and they can handle it. It helps our children become resilient, sharpen their decision-making skills, and identify and respect boundaries — important qualities to acquire by the time they are on their own.

Carrie Krawiec, LMFT and family therapist, says that “Kids are often so protected from disappointment (every student winning an award or games with no losers) that when they are disappointed (not making the team or a breakup), it’s so devastating they may become very depressed. Kids need to learn that they can get through disappointment, that these challenges will help them grow and make them stronger.”

Kids need to learn that whining and complaining cannot convert a “no” into a “yes.” “Saying ‘no’ teaches children to respect their parents and other adults,” says Rebecca Kieffer, MSW, a child and family therapist.

However, saying no should be said in moderation, and in a calm but firm tone of voice. Some parenting experts believe that saying “no” too much may plant seed of resentment or breed for future rebellion. So say no only when something is prohibited or against house rules such as eating candies or junk food before meal, staying outdoors when it’s already late, or playing games on gadgets that may turn your kids lazy and unproductive.

While driving down the street, I talked gently to Hale, bearing in mind that I was talking to a child who was just so fascinated about getting 1000 stickers. She used to have one, but someone borrowed it from her and never returned it. This was her chance of getting another sticker book. This late in the evening!

As I ended my talk, she remained silent. I didn’t hear any sighing or heavy breathing anymore. Then, we reached our home. It was already 8:30 PM. Chantry was already sleeping at the back of our car. Hale was still awake, so I opened the door to bring her first into our house. I hugged her and she hugged me back. I asked her if she understood what I said and she nodded with a yes. Her eyes looking at me as if feeling sorry for how she acted, then almost never letting go of me through that embrace.