I love older people and the wisdom they exude. As I sat with a group of spry seniors, I overheard this gem. “Parent’s don’t say ‘no’ to their kids anymore, that’s why the kids today are spoiled and feel so entitled…”

Just saying “No”, is something you and I already know we should do more.

I’m not talking about teaching them to say “No” to drugs, premarital intercourse, or following a hippie to a second location. I’m talking about a parent saying “No” to 90% of their kid’s ridiculous questions and demands.

I know your kids are adorable and you want to say “Yes” to light up that beautiful smile. But stop it. You aren’t your kids’ BFF, you don’t need your kids to like you, just respect you.

No wonder we have spoiled kids with a massive sense of entitlement. We gave it to them by pampering, placating, and caving to their every whim and fancy. Becoming aware of the pattern your kids are weaving for you is the first step.

As a new parent, I was always told to try and say “Yes” and limit “No”. But now, four kids in, I’m singing a new song, (“No No No” by Destiny’s Child – 1997 #1). We need to say “No” more often. Sometimes a toddler’s first favourite word is “No” because that’s all they hear and that’s great! Bring it on!

You don’t need to yell or scream “No” (complete with awesome wagging teacher finger), but just a firm, friendly “No” can work magic. Kids are designed to test boundaries. It’s what they do. It’s what you did as a kid too. Kids are craving structure and order.

“No!” creates boundaries and limits.
“No!” creates expectations for behaviour.
“No!” stops more ridiculous questions.

While we always want to treat our children with respect, every daffy outrageous question doesn’t deserve your “PhD-thesis-defending/crown-attorney-airtight-evidence” response. Don’t give every question equal consideration, some questions are just plain dumb.

“Can I bike to school?” (we live a block away)
OPTION A – “No honey, if you wanted to bike to school, you should have gotten yourself ready and left 10 minutes ago because it takes time to find helmets and your bike lock, and you will be late because you need to lock your bike and you can’t be late today because you have the assembly, so you will need to run as fast as you can to school – did you just ask me to drive you?

“Can I bike to school?”
Better option. “No. Go!”

“Daddy, can I have ice cream for dessert?”
OPTION A – “No honey. It’s too close to bedtime and you took too long to eat your dinner so you can’t have sugar before bedtime. Too much sugar makes it harder to fall asleep and you will have crazy dreams. Next time, you will have to clean your plate faster for you have time for dessert, okay honey?”

“Daddy, can I have ice cream for dessert?”
Better option. “No”

“Can I stay up late? We have no school tomorrow…”
OPTION A – “Remember what happened the last time, you stayed up too late? You were cranky and none of us enjoyed the next day and that was when you made all those bad decisions that led to loss of playdates and the movie night, so no sweetheart, you need to go to bed at a regular time so that your body can rest and recharge…” (and the defense rests, your honour…)

“Can I stay up late? We have no school tomorrow…”
Better option – “No. It’s time for bed”

They are kids, pushing boundaries is just what they do. It’s a natural stage. I know my kids are inherently good kids. I would be more worried if they didn’t try to push limits or negotiate/manipulate.

Most times when kids ask dumb questions, they already know the answer. It’s a game to them, it’s fun to spin that big wheel of chance. If you are not consistent, they will keep trying their luck until they hit the jackpot.

Every “No” builds a fence of predictability and structure. Maybe a “Yes” in the short term solves the issue at hand or makes life easier, but what is the long term impact?

There are likely hundreds of reasons why don’t parents say “No” to their kids. Maybe it’s just easier to say “Yes” and be liked (*but not respected)? Maybe “No” was what their parents always said to them and they want better for their kids? Maybe they are spineless and powerless having created a child-centered house?

If you start saying “No” today, you may experience a few tough “push-back” weeks, but in the long run, you will be amazed at how much smarter and well behaved your kids appear, fewer daily battles, and just how infrequently dumb questions are asked. You will almost missed them, but not really.

TAKEAWAY POINT – Kids need to hear “No” 90% of time. Not only will they truly appreciate a “Yes” if it comes, but they are craving the order, structure, and predictability that a “No” creates.

Channel your best Nancy Reagan (circa 1985), make a senior proud, and “Just Say No!”…

Nancy Just Say

What can you say “No” to today to make tomorrow better?
What are some of the dumbest questions your kids ask?

Let’s get the conversation going below, on Facebook, at jeff@thedadvibe.com — what have you said/done that might help other parents?