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Saying No Doesn’t Make You a Monster

One of our kids was recently invited to take a trip with a couple of buddies.
Saying NO After endless discussion and planning, dates were approved and the plan was set. The friends and their parents know that our kids are on a budget. They may not understand why we’re doing it, but they respect our plan for which I am grateful. At least they appear to, who knows what they really think! 🙂

That’s why it was so surprising when, once the plans had been set and approved, they suddenly changed. The trip was going to be longer, it was going to be much cooler and it was going to be more expensive – “Only $100/day” according to one of the friends.

Interested in how this would play out, Bret and I didn’t step in immediately to put a stop to the planning. It took less than 12 hours before we had our answer.

“I decided not to go with the guys,” our son said. “I figured it all out and, first of all, $100 a day is much more than we had originally planned to spend. I added that up to the cost of losing the time at work and I decided the trip wasn’t worth that much to me.”

We were floored. Had our 16 year old son just said “no” to an awesome trip with his friends? He hadn’t even asked for our carefully crafted opinions!

Apparently Kids Can Say No, Too!

It seems hardly a week goes by that I don’t run into a parent who feels like there isn’t enough money to go around or enough time in the day. Too many classes for their kids, too many projects at work, too many games and practices in the evenings. It feels as though we’ve become a society unable to say, “no.”

Unable to say “no” to volunteer requests. Hint: If your volunteering commitments mean you no longer have time to cook dinner for your family – you’re in over your head. Now, if you volunteer specifically so you can get AWAY from your family occasionally, that’s another story. Carry on.

Unable to say “no” to extra playdates. This one truly kills me. Playdates. When in the world did we decide our children cannot play with their siblings and must be carted around to play with other kids? Why on earth would you HAVE more than one kid if it wasn’t so they could play with each other? I swear that mini-van sales people came up with the whole playdate idea – one more place you need to drive a van full of kids.

Unable to say “no” to entire summers spent watching kids’ sports on the weekends. Maybe I’m the exception with this one. Maybe you truly enjoy every weekend spent in either the scorching heat or pouring rain cheering on kids who pretend they can’t hear you because “Mom… You’re so embarrassing!” Me, I prefer a nice lawn chair, a cool drink and good book while camping in Northern Minnesota. But that’s just me.*

I’m Saying NO Because I Love You. Honest.

When we cannot say “no” to our kids, it means not only that we’re going to be spending more on them we want or they need, but also that we’re teaching them they can have everything they want.

Our inability to say “no” not only puts us at odds with our bank accounts, it sends a message to our kids that whatever they want is more important than our needs as parents, both financial and in terms of our time.

How did this happen?

Why are we afraid to say “no” to our kids?

  • “No” to excessive designer clothing.
  • “No” to endless sports and activities.
  • “No” to the latest electronic gadget.

What would happen if we all just learned to say “no” a little more often? Not because we HAVE to, but because it’s important for the personal development of our kids?

  • “No” teaches self-discipline.
  • “No” teaches delayed gratification.
  • “No” teaches what it is to want something enough to work hard and save for it.

What do you think? Could your home benefit from a little more “no?”

 

(*Don’t get me wrong. Our kids are involved in many different things, but their involvement is their own. While we attend an occasional game or performance, we never attend practices or feel the need to be at every single thing they are a part of – if we were, how would they develop their own independence and life?)

 

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  • Clever Dude

    I had to say “no” to my son getting an airsoft gun….even if it’s his own money he’d be spending. Kids don’t have the life experience to understand that some things just aren’t a good idea. Saying “No” is just a part of being a parent – as hard as it might be.

    • To expand on your riff a bit – something we used to tell our kids a LOT was “it’s not your money – it’s OUR money. As the parent, I still get the final say.” We don’t have to say this anymore, because it’s pretty deeply ingrained. I think, as a parent, there’s a whole lot of “NO” at first, but eventually we hope it turns into our kid asking himself, “Is this something Dad would say is a good idea?”

      The trick is getting kids to respect and appreciate our point of view, even when it’s the opposite of what they want. We still don’t have that figured out 100% – but then, does any parent? We’ve only got 18 years to make these impressions. Parenting is hard.