Instead of “No” …

Why do some parents just love saying “No” and others try to avoid it like the plague? Control is most important to “brick-wall” parents and what is more symbolic of your power than to refuse permission? Sometimes under stressful conditions, even the “backbone” parent experiences the shut-down of the reasoning part of their brain. The primitive part of the takes over ready for a fight and “No“ is a pretty good opening salvo.

There are many alternatives to “No”, for example:

  • When possible, substitute a “Yes” for the “No”. If it’s just the timing that’s not appropriate the child should be satisfied with “Yes, later.”.
  • Sometimes there’s just too much going on. Give yourself time to think. Before reacting, relax and take a pause by saying “Give me a minute.”
  • Respectfully describe the problem by giving information, but leave out the “No”. Ask your child to help solve it.
  • Buy some time by saying “Convince me.” It will help the child to learn empathy and how to consider other aspects.
  • Learn to say “no” in a less hurtful way by granting in fantasy what you can’t grant in reality. Maybe “Wouldn’t it be great to buy whatever you want, whenever you want?” might get her to understand that sometimes we have to postpone things.

Discipline is a learning process for both child and parent. Dr. Haim G. Ginott in Between Parent and Child, Three Rivers Press, New York, N.Y., 2003 groups behaviour into three zones of discipline:

  1. Encouraged: behaviour that is wanted and sanctioned;
  2. Allowed: behaviour that is not sanctioned but tolerated for specific reasons such as: leeway for learners, leeway for hard times; and
  3. Forbidden: behaviour that cannot ever be tolerated at all and must be stopped

This is an excellent starting point for setting limits which will be discussed in the next post.

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