What to do when your child says “NO”
by Tom Stevens, LPC-S, RPT-S
Every parent has been there…those times when you just want your child to do what they’ve been told, without talking back. The hardest times are when it happens in public, or when it’s the end of the day and you are on your last nerve. Whether it’s bedtime, mealtime, leaving a birthday party, not wanting to leave a play date, not wanting to leave the store without a toy, or any other example, if you’ve ever experienced any of these you know how exhausting it can be. I feel like children can seek out and attack any hidden weakness in their parents, and they can even store up a huge amount of memory to remember those weaknesses for later in life. The old saying “children should be seen and not heard” has gone out the window, and we are in an era where children feel more confident about speaking out and resisting than ever before.
The truth of the matter is that children are constantly seeking boundaries, and will often push up against those boundaries until the adult (parent, teacher, caregiver, etc) follows through and holds them accountable for their choices. So many parents don’t like to “have to” set boundaries, or develop consistent routines because it requires effort and follow through. Let’s face it, how many of us WANT TO go on a diet and stay on one? It is a challenge to live responsibly and in a healthy way, and it is a challenge for many children to live responsibly because they are constantly seeing new and exciting things in the world. What is most important to remember is that children NEED consistent routines and boundaries, and it NEEDS to be up to the parent or caregiver to put those boundaries into action. If it is bedtime, mealtime, getting a piece of cake for breakfast, or letting kids have a toy at the store, parents need to be intentional with what they are teaching their children about responsibility, self care and healthy living.
Believe it or not, there are several ways to handle times of stress and strain in dealing with your resistant child, and I will give you a few quick tips to getting you back on track right now.
(1)Try to make bedtime, mealtime, and other daily routines as consistent as possible – Knowing that every day can’t be the same, try to have a steady routine of eating, sleeping, etc so your children can have something to count on.
(2)Know how you are going to handle discipline situation “before it happens” – Try not to wait and decide what you are going to do, have consequences and alternative plans ready to put into play (even if it means leaving the party or restaurant, or going to bed hungry)
(3)Model the same behavior you want your children to show – When it comes to self care, your children are watching how you eat, sleep, live, pray, and treat others. Many times they only show us the behaviors that we are showing them.
Tom Stevens, LPC-S, RPT-S