How To Say No To Your Kids

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Saying "No" to your child is never easy. "All the other kids are doing it, why can't I?" they lament. How can you set the boundary for "No means no" without being the "bad guy"?

When saying no to your children, keep in mind that an explanation is always necessary, and your answer should be consistent with your other behaviors. When your teenager asks why they can't go to the party, tell them the truth. "I know when I was your age, I went to a party where there was a lot of drinking, and I told my parents there was no alcohol there." Experience shows your kids that you DO understand, as long as you let them know about the consequences. "I came home drunk and threw up all night, and it really wasn't worth it." For younger kids, make sure your explanation is within the realm of their understanding. Pre-schoolers typically don't have logic skills yet, so an answer of "because you might get hurt" will suffice until they are old enough to understand.

For older kids, always listen to their side of the disagreement. Listening means keeping eye contact, sitting close, giving positive facial expressions, and keeping quiet while your child says what they need to say. Let them know why you are saying "no" and what they may be able to do to get a "yes" from you next time, or at what age you feel their request is appropriate, and why. You may be surprised at your children's insight and maturity. Treating them with respect teaches them respect.

To make sure you are not seen as simply the "bad guy", make sure your relationship is open and make yourself available. Few families nowadays spend actual time with their children, which causes a lot of teenage angst and rebellion! Encourage your children by spending quantity and quality time with them. Encourage them not to take themselves so seriously. Lighten up. Have family fun, laugh, tease, and act silly. By being both their friend and their parent, you can set healthy boundaries with your children and they'll feel that your relationship is based on trust and honesty, not "yes" and "no's".

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