Saying 'no' to your child

Here's my piece of parenting advice for the week.  Practice saying 'no' to your child when they are young.  It will help them.  Truly.

Why?  Here's what I've been thinking about recently.

Earlier last week I had the privilege of hearing Paul Dillon speak.  He's been talking to teenagers and families about drugs and alcohol for the past 20 years and he was fantastic.  He said he'd like to smack some parents around the head for the lack of backbone they have with their teenagers on the issue of alcohol.  It's the old 'Well, everyone else is doing it Mum' argument that seems to press all our buttons so brilliantly.  He said parents need to learn to say 'NO' to their teenagers and show them some tough love.  They are afraid of upsetting their children so give in.

What he didn't say is that many parents are afraid of upsetting their children from the day they are born. I have no problem with loving and caring for my child and keeping them safe.  But by never letting them experience disappointment or failure when they are younger, we can create an enormous problems later.  You can't just start saying 'no' when they're 14 about going to a party where alcohol is on offer if you didn't start saying 'no' to watching 'the inappropriate movie _______ (insert title here) that everyone else is watching' when they were 8.  If they haven't started getting cranky with you before they are teenagers about a boundary you set, then it's going to be hard to go through that for the first time when they are adolescents.

And it's not just this.  I see so many parents at my school who won't let their children experience any failure.  Parents who ring up because their Year 8 boy has forgotten his assignment that is due that day.  Why don't they just let him experience, I don't know, a consequence or something - because next time that assignment might just miraculously make it into his bag without you having to get involved.  Incredible!

Many years ago I read a formative book called 'He'll be OK' by Celia Lashie (I reviewed it here many years ago).  It was so helpful in forming my thinking about having teenagers.  Her strong message is 'Don't rescue your kids on the small things - they need to learn consequences on the little things, to stop them stuffing up on the big things'.

I see kids at my school who don't do any schoolwork - at anytime.  The whole way through school.  Their parents give them the money they need to sustain the lifestyle they enjoy, they don't work for anything so there's no reason to be worried about getting into uni and what they'll do long term.  Hey, Mum and Dad will help me out.  They've done it so far.  They'll keep on rescuing me, keeping me happy.

I think we're just short-changing our kids.  Big time.


stuss said…
Thanks for an encouraging post.

I wonder what has happened to make this generation of parents scared to say no. I know that I find it challenging, even though I agree with you entirely that we need to start saying no when the children are little, like mine are.

My son in Prep left his schoolbag home a couple of weeks ago. It was the first and last time I was going home to get his bag! I don't care if every other mother in his class would go home and get forgotten bags, this mother insists that her children learn that there are consequences for their actions.
Meredith said…
I read this great post earlier today and all day have been wondering, like Stuss, what has happened in the space of a single generation that we are afraid to say no to our kids. And have just come back to find that Stuss has said exactly what I was thinking.

Funny because someone saw me walking to school a couple of days ago for the second time that morning with the forgotten reading folder and I said then, "Not sure if I am being a good mum or a bad mum in taking this forgotten folder to school!"

But great and very encouraging to read this post. I took our youngest to see Nemo in 3D yesterday and was horrified at the previews for all the kids movies my kids won't be watching this coming holidays. Lots of opportunity to practice saying no!

Thanks Jenny. Great words.
Jessica Flett said…
This is fantastic advice. I loved reading this. It just reaffirmed what I'm thinking about when it comes to parenting. Thank you. Jx

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