When Should You Tell Your Child No?

Some parents dislike denying a child anything. But there are times when you must tell your children

Being a parent isn't always easy, and often, it's not fun. Some of the hardest times are when we have to deny our children their requests or put a stop to certain behaviors.

When are the most important times to tell a child "no"?

1. For safety reasons. When your son or daughter begs to ride a bicycle without the accompanying helmet, you should insist on the use of safety equipment or features. Kids often don't realize the dangers associated with some of the toys they play with. That's why one or both parents must be willing and ready to enforce appropriate rules. Misusing a toy or sidestepping responsible usage are two ways that kids often compromise their safety. Don't let them get away with it. Say that you love them too much to jeopardize their lives.

2. For health reasons. It's typical for kids to argue against eating vegetables, going to bed on time, or taking prescribed medication. It's up to parents to ensure that kids do as they are told for their own good. While long-term or potential consequences may not pose an immediate threat, small omissions now can result in huge losses later. Be diligent in enforcing your children's compliance with protective behaviors.

3. For character reasons. Telling a white lie, if there is such a thing, or taking something no one will miss may seem like natural behavior for children. But they're not. Parents have a duty to hold their kids accountable for behavior that misses the mark of good character development. Never allow your child to get away with bending the rules or being dishonest, even when it may seem unimportant. Doing so only lays the groundwork for more problematic character issues as the child grows to adulthood.

4. For convenience reasons. Sometimes a busy parent does not have the time to take a child to the mall or out for fast food. Maybe the budget is too tight for a treat or a new pair of jeans. Parents should not feel bad in telling kids that something they want just doesn't fit the schedule or budget right now. Saying no in this regard teaches children to be patient and to learn to sacrifice when needed. Giving in makes it hard for a child to learn healthy boundaries that will become more important in adulthood.

5. Just because. It remains the parents' prerogative to deny a child's request just because "I say so." This doesn't mean a parent has the right to taunt or tease a son or daughter, but rather, that some requests may be denied or some behaviors prevented or punished because a parent may know what is best without needing to explain to the child. Children should learn to respect authority from their earliest years. When they are allowed to argue, wheedle, complain, or throw tantrums that eventually earn them the privilege of getting what they want instead of respecting parents' wishes, the balance of authority is thwarted. Children learn to disrespect and disregard other forms of authority, such as teachers, law officials, and bosses, to get what they want.

Saying "no" gets easier with practice. While parents can and should grant kids' wishes when they can, it is expected and desirable to deny them for reasons like those cited above.

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