Children need to be told “No.” They need to be told it, and they need to abide by it. They need to know that “no” means “no”. They need to know that “no” does NOT mean, I can manipulate my mom to change her mind. They need to know that “no”does NOT meannthey can talk their way out of it. It is our responsibility to teach our children that “no” means absolutely”no”.
I was one of those moms that typically explained why it was a no. No you cannot go to your friend’s house because it is too late. No you cannot have chocolate because it is almost dinner time. I didn’t always say “NO. Because I said so!” I went with the line of thinking that she needed to know why I was saying no. I did not always engage with the follow up question “why?” If I already stated it in my original no statement there was no reason to engage in the “why” because it was all part of a little child mind trying to convince me otherwise. Sometimes there needs no further explanation. My daughter would frequently try to break me down with the “whys” when she was 3 years old because SOMETIMES it worked! We teach our children how to treat us. We model it, they watch. I would be making dinner and she would want something and I would say, ” No, I can’t right now, I am making dinner.” And she would why me to death until I finally succumbed just to hush that tiny little whiny mouth so I could concentrate on dinner. We all have! We all have at one point in our parent life said “NO means no and I don’t have to tell you why” and we have given in after a series of whys just so they will give us a moment of peace. The daddies don’t always understand this. They don’t understand that after a day of explaining why butterflies fly, why the sun shines, why the lizard is in the sun, why carrots are good for you, why do they need a nap, the crying, the whining, the sheer exhaustion of caring for another human 24/7 on little sleep makes us want to do anything to have a moment of quiet. So we give them mixed messages because sometimes no means no and sometimes no means if you whine long enough I may give in.
I have reflected on this a lot since my daughter is now 20. I have my degree in child development and I know what is age appropriate. In reflecting on the word “no” and life experience, I believe we need to start early and stick to it with our children. They will grow up. A teacher will tell them no. Their boss will tell them no. A friend will tell them no. And how will they respond? Have a fit until they get their way? Manipulate until they get their way? Or will they take no as a no. If I could go back in time, I would tell my daughter what I expected her to say AFTER I told her no. With my knowledge of child development I knew that her mind was inquisitive and not necessarily manipulative at that age. But I was so fried I applied adult logic to a 3 year old which you just cannot do. I often told my husband, “This is appropriate for her age. This behavior is very age appropriate.” But being appropriate does not mean we have to let it be acceptable. Biting may be appropriate for a 2 year old. But that does not mean we need to just let them bite right?
If I could go back I would tell my daughter that when I told her no and explained the no I would expect her to say, “ok mommy.” And that would be that! Our children are growing up to feel they deserve explanations and they are entitled to know why. They think it is their right to have immediate gratification on everything. I see it everywhere now. As my daughter has grown older we have had long in depth conversations on every topic imaginable. No topic is off the table. But 3 year old’s don’t need long in depth conversations about why they can’t touch the hot oven. It is our job to teach them. It is our job to guide them. It is our job to love them and give them our undivided attention and presence. But it is also our job to teach them that NO does in fact mean NO.