Recently I was chatting with a mother of a four-year-old. This four-year-old, according to others, has never heard the word “no.”
Unusually bright, this child is a terror to be around. She is difficult to control, throws temper tantrums, and demands her own way. She does not like rules of any kind.
Her parents are bright Ivy League graduates. They love their child and want to encourage her creativity and independence and they want her to be secure. However, they seem to feel that if you say “no” to a child, you are restricting and limiting their growth. So they employ diversion, distraction, and reasoning in an attempt to get her to behave.
Now, there is nothing wrong with diversion and distraction. They can be very effective with a one-year-old or an eighteen-month-old. It is wise to avoid conflict when possible. Reasoning can be effective, particularly with an older toddler. However, you cannot reason with a one or two-year-old—and diversion and distraction are not enough.
Our children must learn to cope with the word “no” and we must not be afraid to use it.
We teach our child not to run into the street. He must hear us say “no” and immediately stop. There is no time for diversion, it could be a life or death situation. Our first “no’s” have to do with safety issues. Soon we move to other “no’s”: “No, you may not bite your brother.” And we follow through with swift punishment when they proceed to bite.
Our kids have to learn that our “no” actually means “no” and not “maybe if you pitch a fit.” We must follow through with a swift punishment when they disobey. In this way, our kids learn that we are reliable—we mean what we say. They can count on us.
As they mature, reasoning becomes crucial but there will still be times when they (and even we!) simply have to accept “no” even if they don’t understand the reasoning. “No, you cannot skate board without a helmet even if you are an excellent skater.” “No, you cannot stay out all night even if you disagree with our rules.”
A lot of life is full of “no’s” and we don’t prepare our children for adulthood if we are afraid to say “no.”
Every parent wants their child to feel secure and valued. But we have to remember that a young child who calls the shots in the home will become insecure, not secure. God did not intend for that child to have that much power over his parents. His security comes because he begins to understand at an unconscious level that he is not the boss. Mom and Dad are and this gives him security.