Are You Too Strict with Your Teen or Preteen?

How many times have you said “no” to your children today? There’s good reason to consider a few alternatives to the word “no”.

When it comes to parenting, one of the most overused words in the English language is probably the word “no”. It’s a word that is easy to blurt out at the drop of a hat and often we do so without even realizing what it is we’re really saying “no” to. While we usually mean well by saying “no”, Barbara Coloroso, author of Kids Are Worth It, feels that the word “no” becomes ineffective when over-used. You could say that it’s a little like crying wolf.

According to Coloroso, finding an alternative to the word “no” is a good solution. “There are 3 alternatives I use so that I don’t have to say ‘no’ so often, so that when I do say ‘no’ my children will know that I mean it. The first alternative to a question like ‘Mom, can I have a cookie?’ is ‘yes, later’. The child is already to fight a ‘no’, and it’s harder to fight a ‘yes, later’. The second alternative to a question such as ‘Mom can I go to a friend’s house?’ could be ‘give me a minute.’ There’s nothing wrong with asking for a moment to develop your own case. The third alternative which is great for teens and a question like ‘Mom, can I have the car keys?’ is ‘convince me’.”

By choosing our “no’s” carefully Coloroso says we’re then able to save them for those really important questions. “When the kid says, ‘can I stay out all night?’ then a good answer is ‘no’. Kids need to know that there are limits. We’re not a rigid brick wall, we need to bend a bit, but there is a time for ‘no’.”

Parenting instructor Mary Gordon agrees that there are times when a well thought out ‘no’ needs to be heeded by our children, and that in those instances parents should not feel guilty about standing their ground. Gordon adds that sometimes our “no’s” help a child feel safe. “Quite often children are very reassured and feel protected when we give them firm guidelines. It gives them a wimpless way of responding, because when kids can say ‘oh, mom says I have to be home from school by 4 o’clock’ then the child can’t do what the kids want him to do. So what we’re doing is giving the children the security of very firm perimeters.”


Adapted from The Parent Report Radio Show. Any advice or information contained herein should never be a substitute for professional and/or medical advice, diagnosis and treatment. For more information please review Terms of Service.

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