- No, you may NOT watch another TV show…
- No, you may not touch that; you are too young…
- No, you may not go to Johnnie’s house…
- No, because I just don’t want you to…
- No, you may not have something to eat 30 minutes before dinner…
- No, no, no (can you picture the finger wagging here?)…
Do you ever feel like all you do all day is say “No” to your children? Did you ever wonder what all of that negative “No you can’t do it” does to your children’s sense of self and self-worth? The short answer is, more than you may think.
“No” is one of the quickest ways to stifle your child’s budding sense of independence and self-fortitude. I know that none of you wants to do that, so here’s an easy way to change the negative into a positive and say “Yes…”, without giving complete control of the house over to the kids.
Your job as a parent is to say “Yes” as often as you can and to as many things as you can. Do I mean say “yes” to everything and turn your children into pampered, indulged children? Of course not! While it is your job to say yes, it is your child’s job to convince you, by showing you, that you can say yes to his/her request. This balance is what helps set up a healthy, mutually respectful relationship, where children are given an opportunity to prove that they are “growing into” responsible adults. It will also help parents navigate the balance between giving too much, too soon or withholding too much for too long.
It looks like this: The child would like a “privilege” and you as the parent help them decide what responsibilities they must prove they can handle BEFORE they are allowed to have the privilege.
Here’s an example:
Privilege: Eating Out (at a restaurant, or a friend’s house, etc …)
- Remember table manners
- Eat what you order
- Sit still in your seat
- Engage in conversation
- Make eye contact
- Use “please” and “thank you”
- Maintain a respectful tone of voice
I recommend that when you have identified what the privilege is, you sit down with your children and together make up the list of responsibilities. They will be more inclined to go along with it. Now you might be wondering how long they are required to maintain these newfound skills in order to gain this new privilege—once, for a week, for a year? Really, it’s up to you, but here’s what I suggest: One week for children five and under; 15 to 20 days for children ages five through fifteen; one month for children over age 15. This time frame will provide a way for your children to turn those responsibilities into habits.
The Privileges and Responsibilities strategy is one my favorites, as I have used it over and over with all of my children, from the time that they were very young to the time that the privilege was driving the car. I also like it because it is an easy way to get away from saying “No” all of the time, and instead say, “Yes… show me.”
For more information on Privileges and Responsibilities, see Ch. 8 of the Parenting On Track™ Program.