June 2, 2008

Saying NO to Your Kids

Alternate title: How to Avoid The Broken Record Syndrome

I'm sure you've met this mom in the grocery store (or maybe in your living room?).

"No, Billy," and Mom continues talking to someone else. "Stop that!" and she continues talking. "Billy, I said no, don't do that!" This can go on for a long time. Eventually there's a crash, a scream, the mom runs to Billy and scoops him up, gives him a swat or carries him outside, all the while berating him. "I TOLD you to stop it! Now see what you've done!" It wasn't Billy's fault. He fell victim to the Broken Record Syndrome (BRS).

It's that annoying buzz in the background, like my computer's hum or the television in the next room. You hear it so much you learn to block it out.

As a mom with little ones, I wanted to avoid BRS at all costs. I wanted my no's to mean something and be taken seriously. So I purposefully avoided saying no, saving that word like gold for important, obey-me-immediately-or-you-will-be-sorry moments. And when I used it, I had to be prepared to follow through, everytime. I usually gave my kids a count of three to obey, and if they didn't, it was time out, or something else meaningful at the moment. Eventually, the labor-intensive follow-through faded away and the kids learned to take me seriously.

But how can you parent without using the word no?

Redirection and Distraction: This works great for young kids. They head for Aunt Millie's china figurine. "Billy, want a cookie?" Of course you are in the process of teaching him how to respect other people's things, but this tactic is handy on a hectic day.

Planning Ahead: This one is crucial. Avoid going places that require you to say no a million times. For example, when my kids were small, we avoided the county fair because the rides were so expensive and tempting! Having only enough tickets for 15 minutes of fun would have been torture for all of us. But if Grandpa wanted to take them, fine!

Alternatives: "Mom, can I play dress-up with your pearls?"
"How about this necklace instead?" or
"Mom, can I have a piece of candy?"
"How about an apple?" I still say this one and we all laugh.

Cost Analysis: When your kids get older and want to do or buy expensive things, sit down with them and go through the cost (time and money). Help them see if they can afford it or if they are willing to put in the time. They might decide against it before you have to say no.

Stalling: "Mom, can I get my eyebrow pierced?"
"Let me think about that."

Can you tell I have teenagers now?

The photo is Meg at age three. She's upset because the sidewalk is too hot to walk on. This was a common look for her at this age.


Heather said...

This makes me feel so much better--we use ALL these tactics (for instance the other day Rach picked up a book she wanted that I felt was not the best purchase. She was using her own money but I wanted her to really think about it so I showed her another book that I felt had more merit and was a dollar cheaper. she spent the next half hour debating and finally came up with some very good reasons why the first book was a better purchase. Her reasoning was solid, included that her little sister would like the 1st better and she would share with her, and I had no problem with it. And because she thought it through she has actually spent hours working on the book.

Now if I could only find a way to get my son to stop jumping on my couch and climbing over it. (I wouldn't have a problem with it except that he is destroying it and my husband bought that couch for me as a gift.)

BTW my husband wants to know how old your kids are now. He loves when I find encouraging stories about the future. :) Ours are only 6, 8, and 10 and all 3 are thriving on unschooling.

Jena said...

Heather, that's exactly what I mean. Rach learned a great deal through that deliberation--so much better than having to deal with a flat out no from mom.

Jumping on the couch? That falls under "don't destroy other people's things." Once he understands that principle, remind him when he lapses, and if he refuses to obey, negative consequences. Eventually he'll remember. There's more about this in my post "setting boundaries for kids."

My kids are 18, 16, and 14. Ages 6, 8, and 10 were great years! Enjoy!

Knittingmama said...

I use many of those tactics when we go grocery shopping, and I have been complimented many times on how well my children are behaved. I get very quiet when I am angry (sometimes), and they know that if they can barely hear me, I mean business! I also tell them ahead of time what they can ask for. For instance, they can get two kinds of chips for snacks OR they can have one kind of candy that they all have to agree on. It usually works very well and prevents the "gimmes."

(My kids are 11, 9, 8, 6 and 3 months)

Jena said...


I like that! It's not depriving them and creating resentment, but it's limited and dependant on cooperation. Good idea.

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