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Seven Tips on Saying “NO”

Last week I shared with you our Happy Kid Day. One reason it was so special is because our family saves treats for special times. There was nothing celebratory last week – Happy Kid Day was unexpected, which made it even more special! I realized that if I always gave treats to my children, Happy Kid Day would mean very little. Not giving kids everything really is giving them even more.

Why say No?

  • Sometimes saying NO is the right thing to do. When kids hear YES all the time, the special privileges are mistaken as rights.  Instead of parents setting the pace on what special treats occur when, many parents hand out special treats whenever their kids ask, as if saying no makes them feel guilty.
  • Saying NO to kids on occasion allows them to appreciate it more when they hear YES.
  • Saying NO teaches them to wait for special treats and privileges.
  •  Saying NO is about parents taking back the role of parenting.
  • Saying NO is also about teaching kids life skills such as setting budgets, saving for special things, and giving to others.

I get why we say YES.  We want to give our kids better than what we had – give them more. In doing so, we feel bad anytime we say no to our kids. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with doing it this way, if  the main motivation starts out as one of love. I’ve just seen and talked to many parents who start out doing something out of love and it becomes an expectation. 

Because we live in a society filled with instant gratification, kids are accustomed to getting what they want when they want it. This can lead to problems when they are older. Why wait for marriage? Why not put everything on a credit card? What’s wrong with debt?

Here are my seven tips to saying No:

1. Say it.

2. Stick to it.

3. Show them something better.

4. Set a good example.

5. Sacrifice – a privilege, not a punishment.

6. Second-hand is not second-best.

7. Suspense vs. Instant gratification

As an example, I am going to use this scenario throughout these tips: You are driving by your family’s favorite ice cream shop. The kids know where it is three streets before it’s even visible.  “Mom, it’s hot outside. We need some ice cream!” Do you say YES or NO?

The first four tips are self-explanatory. They are also the hardest. If you don’t say no to your kids, there will be fall-out when you do start saying no. The best advice I can give is to be prepared. If you know it’s going to happen, decide how you will handle it, and stick to your guns.

1. Say no. Some kids don’t hear “No”. For some, when they do, it’s time for an all-out fit. The temper tantrum leads to a weakening of the word no as parents give in – just to end the tantrum. If you can relate, come up with a plan before you say “NO” and …

2. Stick to it. Once you say it, uphold it. NO MATTER WHAT. No more needs to be said.

If you can not do #2, DO NOT MOVE ON. Give yourself some time – and prayer. Keep trying until you succeed. Then come back and continue reading.

3. Show them something better. I have priced things at places like the local ice cream shop, then gone into a grocery store and shown them how many items in the store they can buy instead of in the shop. If you tell a kid they can have a gallon of ice cream for what a cone costs in an ice cream parlor, what do you think they will pick??? Don’t forget the toppings. One scoop of toppings is equal to a whole BAG of that same candy. I did this with bubble gum. Instead of letting kids get a gumball out of a machine, I took a calculator into the store and figured out how much a single gum ball was worth. My kids have NEVER asked for a quarter for the gumball machine since.

4. Set a good example. If you stop at every Starbucks you pass, why wouldn’t your kids want to stop for ice cream? Ice cream is cheaper anyways…

5. Sacrifice. Defined as “to surrender or give up … for the sake of something else.” Many of us have the mind-set that sacrifice is not something we can do. It’s for soldiers or what Christ did for us. Giving up things feels like a punishment. When you think about it, if you actually HAVE something to give up in the first place, you are blessed. If you have enough money to get a coffee out anytime you want it… blessed. If you have enough food in your pantry to eat junk food whenever you want… blessed. If you can go out to eat when you don’t feel like cooking… blessed. You can give things up and sacrifice, because you have it in the first place. You have it. You are blessed. Read the second part of the definition – For the sake of something else. Give your kids a reason to sacrifice – they will amaze you. If you act like a sacrifice is a punishment, that is what your kids will internalize. If you really believe it is a sacrifice – give up for the sake of something else – you will see it as a privilege, and so will your kids. Sacrifice the weekly trips to the ice cream store (or Starbucks) for a month and put the money in a jar. See how much it adds up. Donate the money to a local charity. Sacrifice – a privilege, not a punishment.

6. Second-hand is not second-best. Let’s move away from the ice-cream analogy for this one. Think FADS. My daughter went through a “I HAVE TO HAVE THAT NAME BRAND!!!!” phase. I took her shopping and we looked at the price tags. Our next stop was to a local thrift shop and we did some comparison shopping. For the same name brands, in great condition, but at a resale shop we could get several outfits instead of half of one.  If that doesn’t work so well, tell your kids about fads that were popular when you were young. I’ll just say one phrase “neon parachute pants.” What they think is HOT right now might really look silly a few years down the road.

7. Suspense vs. Instant gratification. Let’s face it. Our society teaches us instant gratification. We carry our smart phones everywhere and can look up info at any moment. Fast food is on every corner. Microwaves zap things instantly. Forget how fast email is… we now have texting and can even talk face to face… or face to computer camera. We don’t know how to wait. The longest things my kids wait for is the Netflix movie returns. I heard of this idea and I LOVE it. It’s on my list of things to do… if I can wait long enough to find time to do it. Movie/game night.  The goal – pick out a movie or game several days to a week ahead of time. Do not tell them what it is, instead place it in a special box where they can not get it. NO PEEKING (peeking results in loss of privilege). See how well your family waits for it. That almost seems cruel, however, it builds anticipation and excitement.

What tips do you have?

About Kimberly Vogel

I am a mom of four beautiful daughters, a writer, and a certified Early Childhood and Elementary Teacher who recently made the switch from teaching in a classroom to teaching her children at home. I am often found in the children’s area of my church where I volunteer and lead a children’s program. Writing is a natural outpouring of my love for my Savior. Follow along while I share my journey as a bridge builder with you. My prayer is that you start building bridges too!

4 responses »

  1. But ice cream shop ice cream is yummier than grocery store ones….and each kid can pick out their own flavor. Just sayin’! 😉 lol

  2. Pingback: Say YES! « Kimberly A. Vogel

  3. Pingback: A Stranger’s Prayer, a Waterpark, and Miracles! « Kimberly A. Vogel

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