For the first few years of parenthood, it feels like all we do is say, “No!” As babies and toddlers, children are learning social cues, everyday safety and how they are supposed to behave in their community. This requires not only direct discipline, one-on-one attention and group peer modeling, but also a healthy role model for children.
Saying ”no” to a 2-year-old reaching for a hot stovetop is instinctual. However, many parents find it more difficult to say “no” to a rebellious 16-year-old, whose actions may carry much more risk than a burned hand.
Why do some parents struggle to say “no”? Like kids, parents sometimes feel pressured to let their teens do things beyond their comfort zone – such as agreeing to a later curfew, giving them access to personal cell phones or vehicles or giving permission to attend events without chaperones. When parents are swayed by other parents’ choices and rules, this reinforces that peer pressure is OK and sets a precedent that, if badgered enough, mom and dad will eventually give in.
Other parents don’t like to say “no” because they are afraid of losing their child’s love and acceptance. We all want our kids to like us – but being a friend shouldn’t be a parent’s first priority. It’s the parents’ responsibility to instill values, teach right from wrong and set expectations. Maintain an honest relationship with your teen and enjoy her company, but don’t be afraid to make unpopular choices in her best interest. Saying “no” is a critical part of being a loving parent – even if your teen doesn’t see it that way.
Often, the best way parents can send a message to their teens is to teach by example and say “no” with their own behavior. Model the choices and behaviors you want to see in your kids. For example, don’t just tell your teen to say no to alcohol – don’t drink to excess in her presence or associate with people who do. Don’t use your own social calendar to illustrate that drinking and fun go hand-in-hand. Give her lots of opportunities to socialize and enjoy entertainment with people who aren’t under the influence.
|This same practice can be applied to sex and relationship behavior. If asked, “Mom, can my boyfriend and I have sex tonight?” most parents would answer with a resounding, “No!” However, parents’ behavior about sex often contradicts their values and messages. Some might stress chastity and abstinence when they talk to their teens about sex, but then provide condoms “just in case.” This sends a mixed message to teens. Provide clear expectations for behavior, and stick to them.
Finally, remember that learning to deal with hearing “no” is an important life skill. Professors, employers, bank officers, clients and spouses will not spare your child a world of “no” in the future. When parents say “no” in the childhood and teen years, it teaches them how to deal with disappointment – and sometimes, how to overcome hurdles.
To learn more about how Compass Rose Academy can help you and your family learn the power of “No!” visit www.compassroseacademy.org.