What's in a "No?"
Why is it that when you reasonably answer “no” to your child’s request, it sometimes results in hurt feelings that last for hours or even days? Even more mysterious, why is it that hearing “no” from other people doesn’t seem to upset her? Take this example -- Friday night has arrived, a TGIF if ever there was one. You are beyond ready to put your feet up – right after you pick up your 14-year-old daughter and her friends from the movies. Relief is so close you can almost touch it. You’re a darned good sport to be providing taxi service after a week like this.
(There have been no ratings yet.)
An hour later, the last friend having been delivered to her door, your daughter turns to you in the car and says, “Mom – you know that camera you said I could get? I found one, and they’re open ‘til midnight. Can we get it tonight? Please???”
You manage to stifle a scream as the response leaps from your lips:
“No, we can not!!”
Before you can even take another breath, your daughter has slouched into the car door as far away from you as possible, an island of anger and hurt. How is this possible, you wonder in frustration. Suddenly the weekend feels more taxing than the five days that preceded it.
The answer lies in the words you haven’t said. What’s hurtful to kids – and why they may become so upset – is not the frustration of not getting what they want. It’s the messages that ride along with the “no” that harm their spirits and affect your relationship.
It’s possible to say “no” without all those negative messages, by having empathy for yourself and your child.
Accept the importance of the request to the child.
Accept your own limitations. It’s natural to be tired after a long week.
Give yourself permission to take care of yourself.
Acknowledge your desire to give your child what she wants – even when you can’t deliver it.
Here’s how it sounds: “I know it’s important to you, I really wish I could make it happen, but I just can’t.”
©2008 Beech Acres Parenting Center; www.beechacres.org