Just Say No—Why You Should Say No To Your Kids

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Once again I see a mom pick up the cookie her child throws on the ground and give him another one.

I can almost predict the next scene.

Yep, it happens exactly like a pre-orchestrated, brilliant plan. The toddler takes one bite of the cookie, gives out a fake, wincing cry and waits for the next cookie.

What does the mom do? She leans over, picks up the cookie, tosses it in the trash and hands her crying toddler a new cookie—anything to keep the tears away.

My two toddlers immediately pick up on this attitude, and if I am not careful they catch this contagious behavior. In fact, a few seconds later I see my four-year-old throwing down a drink producing bogus tears. I seize this teaching opportunity to help Mary-Lynn as well as the other moms observing my reaction.

“Mary-Lynn, you do not throw that on the ground. Pick it up.”

She pouts.

“Pick it up.” I repeat and she picks it up. She knows this mom will not let her get away with fits and tantrums.

“Thank you, Mary-Lynn. Now, look at mommy.”

Those beautiful, brown eyes peer into mine.

“You are not allowed to scream and throw a fit. If you want something, ask politely. Say please and thank-you. Remember, you never get what you scream or cry for.”

She nods and remembers the rules. Within minutes she is back to the little girl I trained her to be–content, happy and obedient.

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Meanwhile, the other moms are racing after their little ones, treating them like miniature kings and queens. Baby screams, mommy jumps. Toddler kicks and falls on the ground, mommy comes to the rescue. These little ones have learned how to manipulate their parents to get exactly what they want–every time they want it.

However, the outcomes and effects of the two different parenting styles are ironic. I look at my munchkin and she is all smiles—the royal kings and queens? They are all tears and screams.

I realize some moms are only imitating their parents and other moms. They really think if they displease their child they are a bad parent. I understand this thought process, as I can be quite a mushy pushover. But, when I lean on God’s understanding and not my own, I learn a lesson.

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Many times I have wanted to do just the same as these other moms. In fact, with my first child, I did pamper and jump at his every little whimper. I had convinced myself that if my baby was crying, I was not being a good mother. Do you know what I created? I created a demanding, self-centered child.

It didn’t take long for someone to point out that I should not let him pull my glasses off my face or cry incessantly. I had to learn that it is o.k. to say “no” to my child when he asks for something or exhibits ill behavior.

In fact, when I began searching God’s word for help on this parenting journey, God graciously guided me.

Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go…”

After pondering this verse, it was clear to me that throwing tantrums, fits and being self-centered is not the way my child should go. I had been given this little life to mold and shape for the Lord’s glory. How can I do that if I am letting him have everything he so desires?

I am a sucker for chubby, little hands and soft cheeks. Tears that flow out of big brown eyes softens my heart. But leaning to my own understanding gets me no where. I must trust in God’s wisdom.

Even though it was difficult, I began telling my oldest son “no” when he grabbed my glasses. I began disciplining him for throwing tantrums. I also did not allow him to cry incessantly when he was feeling less than happy. This wasn’t always a popular parenting technique, but I knew it was what my son needed. It took training, patience and complete trust in God that it was OK to say “no” to that tiny human being that had stolen my heart and affection.

The first bit of evidence that I had finally improved in my parenting skills was when we took a trip to the grocery store.

My son eyed the candy bars and shouted, “I want! I want! Please mommy, I want!”

Yes, he did say please, but no I couldn’t afford a candy bar on that day.

“No, son…not today.”

I expected alligator tears and pouting.

That’s not what I got.

“O.k. mommy.” was his polite response.

I returned his submission with a kiss and hug. That attitude made me want to throw the whole box of candy bars into the cart!

This attitude is now seen in all six of my kids. No, I do not think that some kids are just “hard cases”. In fact, I have some strong-willed children that it took quite a while to tame and teach that when mommy and daddy say no, it really means no.

Parents have an amazing opportunity facing them everyday–an opportunity to train their kids in the way they should go. You are shaping your child’s character today, whether you are trying to or not.

If you are giving them whatsoever they desire every time, then you are teaching them that they can always have what they want, when they want it. You are also teaching them through your actions that if they whine, cause a scene or throw a tantrum that they can get what they want. Then, those same kids grow up and blow up when someone cuts them off in traffic. Those same kids grow up and complain about how slow the cashier is at the grocery store. Those same kids grow up and no one wants to be around them because they are a really big, self-centered baby that never grew up and is now living in an adult body and in an adult world.

Do you want that for your kids?

No is a part of life. The sooner your kids learn that, the better.

Practice saying “no” to your child today. I LOVE saying “yes”, but sometimes “no” is best.

The next time your child grabs your phone, take it out of his hands and say, “No, you do not take mommy’s phone without permission.”

Will your little one pout or whine? For sure, if this is the first time you have taken the phone away. But that is ok. Your child has to learn not to take other people’s possessions. When your child screams for french fries at dinner, give him veggies. Will he explode in anger? At first he will, but stay in control and discipline him for his outburst. Over time, and not much time at all, your little one will learn what is acceptable behavior. Why? Because you learned how to “just say no”.

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24 thoughts on “Just Say No—Why You Should Say No To Your Kids”

  1. Love this post, Alison! Agree 100%. I only have 1 little girl and I sometimes have to remind myself, ugh you’re in charge not her! What a great honor it is to raise up these little people who will one day be an asset to society!

    1. Thanks for the sweet comment Selene! It is hard sometimes because our kiddos are so cute:) But you’re right, they have to know who is in charge too! So glad we met up in bloggy land!

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  3. What a wonderful article. And I needed this today more than ever. I just left chic fila with a tantrum throwing 4 yr old. He was upset because he didn’t get ice cream. I see now how I could’ve handled the situation better and that I should NOT have given him that cookie when we got home. I have to remember the “you never get what ou scream and cry for”.

    1. Lori,
      It is such a blessing to hear that this article spoke to your heart about a parenting issue. It is so easy to follow our emotions and just hand kids what they cry for—but it only worsens the situation!
      So glad you shared your experience and your positive feedback made my day!

  4. So true. I’m not even a mom yet, but in teaching in preschools and nannying it is so much easier to be seen as “the nice guy” and say yes than to teach values. It looks nicer in the short term, the kid is happy, everyone’s smiling, but then the time comes when you have no choice but to say no, and they have no idea how to handle it. I’m glad I’ve learned to feel comfortable saying no (in a teaching way, not a nasty way) before I have my own children.

  5. Could you delete my first comment please.

    I noticed your “pin” on Pinterest and although I do not have any children I was curious as to what the answer might be to your question. I am happy to see that the answer is yes!

    Life is challenging, tough, scary, and frankly it is a big world out there, kids will hear no more times in their life than you can count, even if it is not from you. All kids, in fact they want them. No is not a dirty word and it is sad that many people treat it as if it is.

  6. I agree that children should be disciplined and it is ok to say no, but do have to mention that not all children are the same. My children are VERY persistent! How do you “not let your child scream.”??? My girls will cry and scream over me sometimes when I am trying to talk to them and nothing will stop them until they are ready and willing to stop. I don’t think there is any way to “make” you kids stop crying or having a tantrum. I discipline my girls CONSTANTLY and they still struggle.

    1. Yes, there are ways to stop tantrums–always. I have six munchkins and I have been able to always stop a tantrum in its tracks. Make sure you are using the correct form of discipline for tantrums–which are rebellious outbursts. The sooner you consistently deal with them, the better. NEVER discipline a child in anger and NEVER yell at them! The book of Proverbs is a great place to start for parenting wisdom!

      1. Alison, that’s why I think that it depends on the child because my youngest has such a hot temper that even both sets of our parents have said that they have never seen anything like her temper. She will scream until she gets her way, or it will go on for a very long time. We don’t give in when it is important, and she will carry on for a VERY long time sometimes. She actually screamed for almost our whole car trip home from North Carolina (to Ohio)!!! Nothing, and I mean NOTHING worked!

  7. Hi!

    I love this article so much. I just discovered your site tonight and have been reading like crazy. I’m wondering though, what type of punishments do you use with toddlers? Time out? Is that how you stop tantrums? I do not give in to my sons tantrums and give him what he wants but I cannot get him to calm down without a ton of time and effort. You make it sound so simple!!

    1. Hi Laura,

      Apparently a lot of moms have your same question, so I will try to send you an email soon. No, I do not use time-out as a form of punishment. That only seems to worsen things. I am dealing with a kidney infeciton right now and will try to get back with you asap. I am hoping tonight or in the next few days. Thanks for asking and reaching out!

      1. Thank you so much! An email would be amazing and although my situation feels desperate, it is not as serious as a kidney infection so please take your time. Feel better soon!

      2. could you send me the same email? my daughter is two and has such a temper (teeth grinding/ and recently pulling out her hair sometimes). I feel I’ve lost control which isn’t helping either of us. any advice would be greatly appreciated.

      3. Hi Alison, what a usefull blog you write! I have three little gigglers aged one, two and three and I am experiencing very hard times raising them at this moment. I am also really interested in your disciplining manners. While reading the comments on this article I guess you have written an article or two about discipline too? Can you send me the links to those articles of otherwise please write an article on how to discipline? Haven’t found them yet :-) Many thanks!

      4. Hi Alison,
        I would be very interested in learning the punishment methods you use with your children as I am struggling in this area. I have done a search on your blog but have not been able to find a post on this topic. Could you please send me a link or email on this topic? I very much appreciate your blog and the hard work you put into sharing your advice with other Parents!

  8. Another great article Alison! And so true! We were consistent with our loving and firm disciple when my munchkins were small, and did not allow they to throw themselves on the ground and kick and scream in order to get what they wanted. It wasn’t easy, and I sometimes cried too, but it has paid off in grown up sons and one daughter that are responsible and godly adults who love their children and are amazing parents themselves! You are doing an amazing job of raising your family Alison!

  9. Could you please help by sharing your methods of discipline please? I too have a little 2 year old that is EXTREMELY head strong and LOUD. My husband is a peacekeeper and a quiet spirit and I’m firm and expressive. I see a lot of me in her when “I” was a kid. Even my parents, aunts and uncles say I too had a temper at that age.

    We’re NOT afraid to say no, however, like a poster above. She will scream at the top of her lungs for an HOUR. We’ve tried time outs, leaving, eye contact. Help!

  10. I agree that saying no is important. And obviously sometimes it is for their safety. My question is, at what age do we expect them to understand and obey? I have a 14 month old and I’ve been telling her no ever since she started getting into things. She seems to understand (I think) but continues to do things that I have told her not to and often shakes her head no as she does it! Any advice would be appreciated! thanks!

  11. Thanks for such a great post! I am disturbed by how much advice I see stating that you shouldn’t tell your children no. It’s great to see some godly wisdom out there. :)

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