“No” is a powerful word and tool in parenting. It is much more powerful than the easier said, “Yes!” The boomer generation of parents, myself included, may have raised the most spoiled generation of children in history. This has sadly occurred at an economic time when “spoiled” will not work for their betterment. Sometimes love means saying no.
Do you remember the movie, “Love Story,” and the over-used, over-promoted, and overly hyped line from it – “Love is never having to say you’re sorry?” I do, and I remember what a bad book and movie it was, though the almost forgotten Ali MacGraw was a boy’s dream girl as the star. I think that promotional “line” is about the only enduring thing to come from that movie, which isn’t saying much.
In reality, love often means doing things that may not seem loving, especially as a parent. I’ve often said that being the best mom or dad you can be may not mean being your children’s best friend (see my column, “Best Friend or Best Parent”). While I think the “Love Story” line is simply an early pre-age bit of nonsense, it does inspire the much better one that I’ve used as the title for this column, “Love is Saying NO.”
Why is “No” such an important word and tool for parents? Because it is how you teach your children not only right from wrong, but boundaries of society, relationships, and respect for authority. The first authority most children experience is from their parents. Dads and moms therefore truly have the first opportunity to lay a proper foundation for their children to grow up as responsible, independent adults. And, it’s not by saying, “Yes.”
As with all “rules,” there are exceptions to any blanket statement, but let’s list a few examples of saying “No:”
- No, you may not have that cookie, candy bar, soda, dessert, fried food, fast food item, “fill in the blank,” because it’s not good for you.
- No, you may not speak to your mother (or father) like that.
- No, that language is not acceptable in this house.
- No, you cannot go to that PG-13 movie even though your other 12-year-old friends are allowed to go.
- No, I don’t care how old you are, I will not allow you to listen to that disgusting and inappropriate music, or see “that” movie even if you’re old enough to go to R-rated movies, etc.
- No, you have to eat your vegetables (ahhh, that one is a “classic”).
- No, you can’t stay home from school today because you haven’t prepared for that test, you don’t feel like it, you don’t want to see so-and-so, you are too tired from last night’s party, etc.
- No, a curfew is a curfew and you cannot stay out past 10:30 p.m., even if all your friends are allowed to do so.
- No, your boyfriend/girlfriend may not sleep over even if her parents say it’s okay.
- No, you can’t watch that television show on a school night. You know our rule, no television on school nights.
- No, you can’t drive my car.
- No, you don’t get your allowance because you didn’t do your chores.
I decided to stop at an even dozen in compiling this list as I realized how truly endless the job of saying “No” is for parents. The list is and should be endless if you’re doing your job as the best mom or dad you can be.
Saying “Yes” to all the things our children want is just enabling them to not grow up, take responsibility, learn independence, and to be happy. Happiness doesn’t come from having things handed to you near as much as it does when you earn it yourself.
Think about it. Think about your achievements in life. Remember all the way back to your school or college days. When you busted yourself studying for an exam, or writing a school paper, and you did well and got a good grade, how did you feel? If you cheated or plagiarized, would the feeling be near as good? These are examples of saying “No” to yourself, as you hopefully learned from hearing it when you needed to from your dad and mom.
There’s a huge difference between self-discipline and self-esteem. The latter has been completely subverted by our politically correct school system, for the most part, while the former is not “taught” much at all in mainstream education. These are other reasons that mom and dad have to take the lead in making self-discipline second nature to our boys and girls. It will only happen when you say, No.”
So, practice it. Let it be second nature. By disciplining yourself to discipline your children, you are indeed being the best dad or mom you can be and, ironically, you are better preparing your children for the realities of life that they will indeed face.
No, it won’t hurt.
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