As a parent, it is sometimes natural to give in to your child’s demands.
However, it’s equally important to remind your children that all their wishes cannot be fulfilled. They need to work harder to get what they want.
But that’s not to say that you turn into a heavy-handed strict parent overnight. You need to strike a balance between being a permissive parent (high warmth, low control) and authoritarian parenting (high control, low warmth) – the authoritative approach.
The authoritative approach includes a healthy, connected relationship with your child combined with moderate control – offering choices to your little ones within boundaries.
Remember that saying “No” to some of your child’s demands, especially the ones accompanied by unacceptable behaviour can go a long way in making them more independent and building resiliency.
So, here are some ways in which you can politely say no to your children’s demands while maintaining a healthy relationship with them.
1. Offer choices
Let’s say your child wants to have candy before dinner, but you don’t want to give them the liberty of having candy whenever they want. In such cases, offering a choice works like a charm.
Tell them that they can either have one candy before dinner or four after dinner while explaining to them how having candies before dinner can cause them to lose their appetite.
Let’s take another scenario: your child doesn’t want to have milk but it is important for their health. Instead of scolding them or being harsh, give them a choice of three mugs of different colours and shapes. Ask them to choose one to have milk in.
This way, they will feel as if they’re in control.
2. Distract them
Take advantage of their short attention span, and distract your children when they demand something by engaging them in a new, fun activity. Point to a plain wall in the room and say, “Don’t you think a collage covering the entire wall with some designs around it would enliven this space? Do you want to do this with me today?”
Ensure that you don’t give in to their whining and give them what they want. That’s like rewarding bad behaviour, and you really don’t want that to become a habit for them.
3. Listen to their requests and grant permission for something else that’s related to it
Instead of outright ignoring their request, listen to their reasoning for their demands. For instance, if your child asks for your cell phone to play a game, you can instead allow them some extra play time with building blocks and playing dough to keep them away from screen.
This way, you’re giving them permission to enjoy some play time with you and build the much important parent-child relationship.
4. Be the role model
They ask to stay up past their bedtime? Tell them that even you want to watch a movie past your bedtime. But then, very subtly, remind them of the fact, “Staying up past bedtime makes you drowsy in the morning.”
Remind them how they felt the last time when they had to wake up early in the morning for school after having stayed up all night. Give them instances from your life, where you slept late in the night only to miss out on your very important morning meeting at work.
Apart from these four suggested ways of saying no to your child, you can come up with your own creative ways to deny requests without being harsh.
For instance, you can play pretend. Tell them that since you can’t give them real candies before dinner, they can have many pretend candies.
Or have a notepad where you have several self-created vouchers for your child to avail. Pick out one and draw two chocolates. Give them the voucher and let them avail it within a pre-decided time window.
It is a parent’s dream to make their children’s lives more fulfilled, safe, and happy. But at the same time, it is important to understand that immediate gratification can do more harm than good.
Remember to follow the authoritative approach, striking a balance between being too harsh and too soft.
It might make you feel slightly guilty for upsetting your child, but then, remind yourself that it is important to experience uncomfortable feelings for their own benefit. When a child learns that they can’t always get what they want, they grow to become more reasonable and practical.